England’s hopes of making a first Commonwealth Games netball final were shattered in a five-minute period of clinical Australian shooting at the Thyagaraj Sports Complex in Delhi today.
Having led the world champions by two goals at half time, England were one behind at the end of the third quarter but could do little as Australia shot five goals in as many minutes at the start of the fourth on their way to a 51-45 win.
England have shown why they are among the best in the world but in their pool game against defending champions New Zealand they were undone in the fourth quarter, something Maggie Jackson’s team were acutely aware of ahead of the semi-final.
“We focused on the fourth quarter after the New Zealand game. We looked for things in training and wanted to make sure we finished the match strongly. Apart from the first five minutes of the last quarter we were right in it, and it’s just gutting to come so close,” said Sara Bayman, who plays for Northern Thunder in the Netball Superleague.
Having been level at 12-12 at the end of the first quarter, England stormed into the lead early in the second as Loughborough Lightning’s Jo Harten helped them to a four-point lead before Australia pegged it back to 23-21 at half-time.
Making fewer turnovers and more interceptions than Australia, things were looking good for England but as the match moved into its third quarter Australia came back to level at 28-28 and took the lead for the first time since the first quarter five minutes from the end of the period.
Behind by just a goal going into the final 15 minutes, England hoped the lessons learned from their defeat by the Silver Ferns would stand them in good stead, but Australia upped the ante, scoring five quick goals.
They rallied briefly, with Bristol-based Pamela Cookey narrowing the deficit, and matched their opponents for the remainder of the match. Unfortunately for the world’s number three side, Australia’s quickfire start to the fourth quarter proved an insurmountable challenge.
“We never stopped fighting and always believed we could win it but we just couldn’t get it back,” said Bayman. “We’ve got a day off tomorrow so we’ll focus on the bronze medal match and make sure we at least go home with a medal.”
Summing up her team’s efforts against Australia, England co-captain Sonia Mkoloma agreed with Bayman’s assessment.
“It was a good team effort. We wanted to put up a good fight and give it everything. Now we have to regroup and put all our efforts into winning the bronze medal.”
England play Jamaica in the bronze medal match at 11:30 tomorrow. Jamaica lost to New Zealand 59-43 in the other semi-final.