The Vitality Roses secured a 54-41 victory over New Zealand in their opening game of the Vitality Quad Series, whilst defending Champions Australia saw off stiff competition from South Africa with a 62-45 win.
Despite New Zealand under-performing at the Commonwealth Games, Tracey Neville didn't underestimate a team that's rebuilding under newly appointed Head Coach Noeline Taurua.
Neville went with a trusted starting seven, whilst Taurua called upon experience and included both Langman and Copua in her New Zealand side.
The first half was well contested, and both circle defences made it very tough for the opposistion mid-court combinations to find their shooters circle, resulting in just one goal separating the sides at half time, and the Roses taking a narrow lead 25-24.
It was England however who put their foot down in a decisive third quarter which changed the course of the game. The hosts defensive duo of Geva Mentor and Eboni Usoro-Brown coupled with the sharp shooting of Jo Harten and midcourt dominance gave England the upper hand.
In a bid to stem the flow, Gina Crampton, at wing attack and Mikaere in the defensive circle, were introduced to the action but the Silver Ferns struggled to keep a lid on England’s strong driving play and accuracy. The Silver Ferns were unable to match England in the possession stakes as the hosts powered their way to a 40-30 lead at the last break.
Staging a mini revival in the run home, the Silver Ferns faced further problems when Burger was stood down for two minutes after infringing for a second time following a warning.
With an extra player, England made the most of their chances to ram home the advantage. The Silver Ferns had their moments but lacked consistency in the process of trying a number of new combinations and personnel in their build towards the World Cup.
Australia faced a scare against South Africa early on, and The Proteas ended the first quarter leading 16-11. Australia responded well however, and went in to half time two goals up 25-27. From here, they pushed ahead and Tippett and Wood's partnership in the shooting circle went from strength to strength, with Tippett scoring an impressive 30 from 32 shots. Australia won the game comfortably in the end, 45-62.
Lisa Alexander’s players have barely seen a netball court since winning the Constellation Cup last October and it showed early on. However, she didn’t want excuses for a listless start.
“South Africa did some beautiful things in that first quarter and we were caught napping,” Alexander said.
“It’s not acceptable to be hanging around for a quarter, trying to get intercepts or adjusting to the penalty count. We can’t afford that against New Zealand or England.”
Next weekend sees the following fixtures at the Copperbox Arena in London:
Saturday - South Africa v England and New Zealand v Australia
Sunday - New Zealand v South Africa and England v Australia
All games will be shown on Sky Sports.
By Kate Lightfoot