Commonwealth Games: England braced for Australian reaction in semi-final | basketball news

Emma Thurston

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England take on Australia in the second semi-final on Saturday at the NEC Arena in Birmingham; the first pass from the center is at 2:30 p.m.; it is a rematch of the 2018 Commonwealth Games final; the other semifinal between New Zealand and Jamaica is at 9am

Last update: 05/08/22 16:29

England go into the semi-final unbeaten and following a 10-goal win over New Zealand

England vs. Australia is one of netball’s most famous rivalries after England’s stunning final win at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games four years ago. The next chapter will be written on Saturday and this time, in the semifinals.

On 15 April 2018, England shook the world order by beating hosts Australia, and Helen Housby’s famous last-second goal secured the team their first major championship gold medal.

Netball competition at the Commonwealth Games ranks right up there with a Netball World Cup in terms of competitiveness and importance. The sport is not yet part of the Olympic Games.

Following England’s triumph in 2018, this year’s home competition in Birmingham has been a focus of attention. Tracey Neville led the team to the 2019 Netball World Cup before stepping aside and since then England’s development has been the brainchild of another former England international, Jess Thirlby.

Thirlby has perfectly timed England’s progression and built a team stronger than ever. He combines experienced internationals such as Geva Mentor and Jade Clarke, who have over 340 caps between them, with those taking part in their first Commonwealth Games.

The England team is putting pressure on each other to perform and so far they are doing what their head coach had said they would do, which is to embrace and feel energized by being both the defending champion and the home team.

England Team – Commonwealth Games Fixtures and Results

Friday England 74-22 Trinidad and Tobago
Saturday England 66-41 Malawi
Monday England 71-27 Northern Ireland
Tuesday England 56-35 Uganda
Thursday England 54-44 New Zealand
Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Semifinal vs Australia
Sunday, August 7 Final/bronze match

Before the tournament it was anticipated that England would not face the Australian Diamonds until the gold medal match on Sunday, however Jamaica shook things up on Thursday morning.

The Sunshine Girls’ comeback victory over the Diamonds relegated Australia to second place in Group A, then England’s impressive 10-goal win over New Zealand ensured they exited Group B having come through it.

“We got to the semi-final having scalped a team that is above us in the world rankings and that has to be good for confidence. It’s a better place to be than recovering from a loss,” Thirlby said.

“We’ve got a big job against Australia, and they’ll be hurt too. It’s got the crowd excited and given us the proof we needed, but nothing has really changed. It’s the winners of the next two games that really matter now.”

Imogen Allison illustrated England's determination in the fourth quarter against New Zealand

Imogen Allison illustrated England’s determination in the fourth quarter against New Zealand

England won the fourth quarter against New Zealand 15-11, including Imogen Allison’s stunning late finish and long-range shot to Eleanor Cardwell ensured that they will pick up a big push in their semi-final.

From day one of the competition, Thirlby has displayed an incredible ability to field the right players at the right time, to inject something different into matches and raise the bar.

Mentor’s England defensive end Layla Guscoth and Stacey Francis-Bayman have been world class and all three know a lot about Australian netball given their current and previous time playing for Suncorp Super Netball.

Commonwealth Games Semi-Finals – Saturday

9 a.m. Jamaica vs New Zealand
14:30 england v australia

At the other end of the pitch, there are concerns about Jo Harten’s fitness as he appears to be dealing with a leg injury during this competition. But, Housby showed against New Zealand what a great player she is and how he is peaking as this tournament reaches its climax. Fellow shooter Eleanor Cardwell stepped onto a Commonwealth Games stage for the first time and was mesmerizing.

Cardwell’s understanding of Housby continues to grow while captain Nat Metcalf knows exactly what both shooters are doing and there hasn’t been a flank defense that has been able to contain it yet. Clarke, center, is better than ever at age 38.

In January’s Netball Quad Series, England and Australia played out a thrilling 48-48 draw and on that occasion the Roses recovered from a six goal deficit early in the fourth quarter and a three goal deficit with just three minutes remaining.

Once again, it was Housby who secured a pivotal shot, but the warning came when the teams met again a couple of days later. Australia doesn’t like being beaten twice and this team won’t want to be the only Diamond team not to make it to the Commonwealth Games gold medal match in their history.

“I know how much Australia will review their game [against Jamaica]Mentor said. “I hope they are licking their wounds and concentrating on how they can take us down.

“We were training while their game was going on and we didn’t really care who was going to come out on top.

“It’s good to know who your enemy will be, but I think we’ve set the tone and it’s opened up the possibility of a different grand final on Sunday.”

Mentor’s work on Grace Nweke, along with Guscoth, really set the tone for England against New Zealand and the pair will be looking to do the same against Steph Wood and Gretel Bueta on Saturday.

Courtney Bruce will aim to interrupt Cardwell, Housby, or Harten. Then, in the middle of the pitch, there will be an intense man vs. man netball battle. Fitness levels will be assessed, and the tactical choices made by Thirlby, Stacey Marinkovich and their coaching teams could be key.

To defend a Commonwealth Games netball title, history shows you have to beat Australia, either in a semi-final or final.

As England head coach Thirlby said, it’s the winners of the next two games that really matter now. With a home crowd behind them, the experience and form they have within their team, England are right where they need to be to prove that lightning can strike twice.

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