By Neil Leverett
- England’s Roses seal semi-final place against New Zealand on Saturday, after 58-47 win over unbeaten South Africa
- Goal attack Jo Harten again on song, netting thirty goals against Proteas
- Tracey Neville’s side face the Silver Fearns this weekend, after their tense single-goal defeat to Tasman rivals Australia
LIVERPOOL, UK – England’s Roses booked their place in Saturday’s INF World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, after winning 58-47 against an undefeated South Africa at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.
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Roses roll on
England’s Roses made it six wins from six at the INF Netball World Cup on Thursday evening, as the hosts won their final Group G game against an unbeaten South Africa side, recording a 58-47 victory at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.
Following a win versus world ranked number two side Jamaica and a 72-46 win over a plucky Trinidad and Tobago side for the hosts, both team’s met with a 100% record, knowing a win would see the winners avoid the three-time defending World Champions Australia, following the Diamonds’ dramatic 50-49 victory hours earlier.
Despite a physical showing from the visitors, England dominated for large portions of the 60 minutes, as Jo Harten again starred for the Roses, netting 30 out 33 of her attempts on goal.
After their 11-point win, Tracey Neville‘s side will regroup on Friday, before the weekend’s last-four meeting with the Kiwis on Saturday afternoon, as they look to set up a rematch of last year’s Commonwealth Games Gold medal match.
Dominant opening half
With England knowing the danger their opposition possessed, the Roses began in ruthless fashion almost to nip any sense of danger in the bud, and push away any chances of what would be a huge upset.
Once again, the goal attack tag-team of Harten and Helen Housby were on song from the opening whistle, as the duo slipped their way through the Proteas’ defence with aplomb.
As the hosts began to rack up early points, South Africa’s task was made all the steeper as centre and captain Bongiwe Msomi was forced off with an early injury. The Wasps’ player’s absence became a telling factor even before the end of the first quarter.
With the clocked ticking down to its’ final seconds – with the Roses holding a healthy lead – Harten then compounded Norma Plummer‘s issues with a last-gasp three-pointer, highlighting the English dominance as they led by ten points at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began brighter for the visitors, but the South Africans were being made to work for mere scraps on the court, with Lenize Potgeiter largely being starved of possession.
As Harten continued to pierce the Proteas’ defence with surgical precision, the Giants Netball forward seemed bent on continuing her imperious tournament, and another flawless shooting average.
Despite surrendered it shortly before the break after a hopeful long-range effort from just inside the circle, the Roses maintained their control ahead of the break, but skipper Serena Guthrie‘s heavy fall in the final seconds of the second quarter, was a gentle reminder that the game was not yet sealed, with a comeback still possible.
Hosts subdue physical Proteas
As the Proteas came out on resumption – adopting a more physical approach – Plummer’s half-time words began to have impact, as the points gap was closed to just nine points mid-way inside the third quarter.
Having scored four consecutive points with signs of nerves appearing, the hosts continued to keep the world number fives at a relative arm’s length. Centre Jade Clarke again marshaled the England midfield with typical class, with the inimitable Geva Mentor a repeated source of frustration for South Africa with another interception masterclass.
If there had been any sense of panic in the Roses, the 13-point gap was then re-established with just 15 to play in Liverpool and as weary legs were rested with the clock – and the gap – ticking down vice captain Clarke then punctured the Proteas’ bubble of hope.
The Wasps’ player’s sumptuous long ball found substitute and fellow clubmate Rachel Dunn, whose aerial leap to snatch the ball from Shadine van der Merwe and score, settled English nerves with the gap becoming insurmountable.
The hosts went on to their lose their unbeaten quarter record, but all that mattered was the result, as the Roses marched on toward the semi-finals with the 58-47 win, with the Netball World Cup final now just one victory away.
South Africa meanwhile, must contemplate a meeting against a side unbeaten in 12 years in the Netball World Cup, but will be optimistic of causing an upset following Australia’s narrow escape with their Tasman divide rivals.
England’s Roses face New Zealand in the 2019 INF Netball World Cup semi-final at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on Saturday, at 3pm UK time.
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