Nineteen-year-old Georgie Twigg was the heroine for England today as she scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over South Africa to secure England the Commonwealth Games bronze medal.
While the youngster from Lincolnshire grabbed the winning goal, England’s penalty corner defence deserved as much credit for the way they dealt superbly with South Africa’s nine penalty corners and frequent attacks.
The medal is England’s third bronze of the summer following excellent campaigns in the Champions Trophy and World Cup, which have seen the European bronze medallists climb to fifth in the world rankings.
After scoring her first goal for England in the pool phase, Twigg, who plays for Bristol-based club Clifton, came good again to secure England bronze with a deft deflection in the 13th minute.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” she said, beaming as she came off the pitch.
“I’m just really happy. I timed my lead in and got my touch low and it went in. These have been my first senior international tournaments this summer and it’s just been fantastic.”
The fact that England kept a clean sheet with the pitch-side thermometer reading 46 degrees centigrade owed much to their preparation since their semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Australia on Monday.
“We scout opposition corners,” explained England captain Kate Walsh. “We do it to make sure all our players and the goalkeeper know what the possibilities are. Pietie [Coetzee, South Africa’s penalty corner specialist] is very dangerous and we knew they had some options. They are sharp in the circle, if the ball drops they’re on it, so we had to be on our toes.”
Leicester’s Crista Cullen, and Reading pair Helen Richardson and goalkeeper Beth Storry were outstanding in their positioning and reactions. Cullen twice put her body on the line and was hit on the lower leg as she charged down direct shots at the top of the circle; Richardson cleared from the goal line twice at the sixth corner of a busy first half; while Storry made several solid blocks and one diving save low to her right.
It was far from one-way traffic though with Leicester pair Hannah Macleod and Kerry Williams threatening inside ten minutes.
With England enjoying a spell of possession, they took the lead in the 13th minute, Twigg scoring what would ultimately be the bronze medal-winning goal. Crista Cullen, roving forward on the right, drilled a low cross into the circle which was expertly met by Twigg, stooping low to deflect the ball inside the back post.
South Africa had first half opportunities to equalise, notably the scramble at their sixth corner that saw Richardson make her double intervention, but they failed to capitalise.
It was a similar story in the second half as South Africa came at England in search of an equaliser. Dirkie Chamberlain forced Beth Storry into a kicked clearance, while Coetzee drew another save from a penalty corner and a comfortable clearance from a reverse stick shot down the middle.
England had chances to extend their winning margin, the most notable of which Reading forward Alex Danson failed to convert from a metre out after being set up by Williams’ cross from the left baseline.
Williams herself had been earlier blocked by goalkeeper Vuyisanani Mangisa at the top of the circle after the 24-year-old forward was sent clean through on goal by Charlotte Craddock’s long pass from the right of midfield. And Hannah Macleod came close but again Mangisa kept her effort out.
Asked how England had picked themselves up after their semi-final defeat to win their third bronze medal of the summer, Walsh said: “Fortunately, we are quite experienced at doing that this season. We’ve had to pick ourselves up a few times.’’
Head coach Danny Kerry added his thoughts on the match, saying, “We were struggling to make decisions in the conditions, so when we got the ball we were losing it again very quickly. We tried to attack but it’s a bit difficult to do that in this heat.”
There was a moment of worry for England at the end when Alex Danson fainted while sitting in the dug-out after the match but she recovered after receiving prompt medical treatment.
England’s men play their bronze medal match against New Zealand at 9.00am on Thursday.