A dominant first quarter, where England shot out to lead by 10 goals, was narrowed across the match by Uganda. They clawed back the score quarter by quarter, winning the 2nd 13 – 11, the third, 15 – 13 and levelled the final. With the crowd firmly on Uganda’s side, England refused to panic or use the lifeline of some of their more experienced players, taking the match 55 – 49.
England: GS Joanne Harten, GA Helen Housby, WA Chelsea Pitman, C Serena Guthrie, WD Beth Cobden, GD ama Agbeze, GK Geva Mentor.
Bench: Natalie Haythornwaite, Jodie Gibson, Jade Clarke, Kadeen Corbin, Eboni Beckford-Chambers.
Coach: Tracey Neville
2nd Quarter – Kadeen Corbin GS, Eboni Beckford-Chambers GK
3rd Quarter – Nat Haythornwaite WA, Jade Clarke C, Serena Guthrie WD, Eboni Beckford-Chambers GD, Ama Agbeze GK. Then Geva Mentor to GK, Ama Agbeze to GD, Helen Housby to GS, Nat Haythornwaite to GA, Chelsea Pitman to WA.
4th Quarter – Beth Cobden WD, Jodi Gibson GD.
Uganda: GS Peace Proscovia (captain), GA Hadijah Nakabuye, WA Halima Nakachwa C Ruth Meme, WD Florence Nanyonga, GD Ajio Lilian, GK Stella Nanfuka.
Bench: Betty Kizza, Joan Nampungu, Racheal Nanyonga, Stella Oyella, Muhayimina Namuwaya
Coach: Imelda Nyongesa
2nd Quarter – Rachael Nanyonga GA, Ruth Meme to WA, Halimma Nakachwa to C.
Umpires: Michelle Phippard (AUS), Marc Henning (AUS), Helen George (AUS)
England produced a ruthless first quarter, with Guthrie signalling their intent by pulling in an intercept within seconds of the match starting. Her combination with Chelsea Pitman (WA) and Beth Cobden (WD) was far too tall and powerful for the Ugandan midcourt, who found it hard to penetrate to their circle. Pitman was particularly effective against Florence Nanyonga, cutting and driving across court, long into the pocket or around the circle edge. Guthrie hauled in three intercepts and two deflections, turning over ball regularly.
Jo Harten played her only quarter today for the Roses; her combination with goal attack Helen Housby has prospered with regular time together. They worked off each other to create space in the circle, producing some beautiful baseline drives or space to drop into. Ajio Lilian was useful at goal defence for Uganda (2 intercepts/2 deflections) but the mismatch in height proved difficult for her to counteract.
With Geva Mentor a strong match in the air against her opposition goal shooter, Peace Proscovia, the usual Ugandan approach to goal was stymied. Proscovia responded by venturing out of the circle far more often than she is used to, often leaving an empty circle. Goal attack Hadijah Nakabuye was guilty of playing too far up court, restricting the options in the circle. At the end of the first quarter England had taken a ten goal lead, 18 – 8.
Both sides made changes to their lines for the second quarter, with Racheal Nanyonga entering the court at goal attack for Uganda. She ran at a ferocious pace for the remaining three quarters, regular screening off Proscovia and shooting 22 goals for her three quarters on court. Far too often the English defenders double teamed Proscovia, leaving the diminutive Nanyonga to nail her drives into the circle and shots on goal. Eboni Beckford-Chambers was on court at goal keeper against Proscovia, and while she bodied up, was less effective in the air against the star Ugandan, who is having a fine tournament.
Pitman continued to control the midcourt, but found it less easy to connect with Kadeen Corbin who had been injected at goal shooter for England. A number of Ugandan supporters turned the crowd firmly onto Uganda’s side, erupting whenever the African team pulled out an intercept or spectacular goal.
Having found a winning combination, Uganda left their side unchanged for the rest of the match, but England continued to rotate players ahead of the finals. Helen Housby shifted between goal attack and goal shooter for the game, and showed what an impact playing in the Australian league has had on her. Always calm, she is now more composed under pressure, and works hard on and off the ball. With Harten off the court, she directed play and led both Corbin and Nat Haythornwaite.
Helen Housby shoots over Lilian Ajio
Haythornwaite took the court in the third quarter at wing attack, before moving to goal attack in the last. She was effective in her first major tournament, front cutting and doing a good job of working around other players.
With the score differential narrowing to just four at one point, Geva Mentor was brought back on at goal keeper to nullify the dangerous Proscovia. Jade Clarke at centre was finding Haythornwaite particularly well in goals, but the English forwards were losing a few too many balls with careless passing. With Pitman back on court for the last quarter, England once again steadied, varying entry of the pass into the circle, and extended their lead. With the game slipping away and bodies tiring, the game became increasingly physical and messy, before England ran out winners by six goals.
FINAL SCORE England defeated Uganda 55 – 49.
England: Helen Housby 30/34 (88%), Joanne Harten 11/11 (100%), Kadeen Corbin 7/10 (70%), Nat Haythornwaite 7/7 (100%)
Uganda: Peace Proscovia 23/26 (88%), Hadijah Nakabuye 4/4 (100%), Racheal Nanyonga 22/27 (81%)
WHAT THEY SAID AFTER THE GAME:
Geva Mentor (England)
Tell me about the game today? “It was the kind of start we wanted, as we knew Uganda were firing after two very good games. We knew we couldn’t give them an edge. Bringing on the combinations has been one thing that we’ve been good at these Games so far, its been seamless, but I think those girls that came on were a little bit slow to adjust on court, a few passing errors, some movement that we needed to sort out.”
“The score line started to creep back out. The crowd then got behind them, they love them, so it’s great for us playing in an arena where everyone is cheering for the other team. It’s going to be like that if we want to face the Aussies along the road. It’s one of the games that we will learn from, as we did grind it out for the win.”
Were your rotations planned today? “I think it’s early in the tournament so we do want to rotate players and have as fresh a legs as possible before the business end. So some combinations out there were planned, while others we perhaps hadn’t seen too much off. It is up to the senior players to anchor them and steady the nerves out there, make sure we stick the game plan.”
Jo Harten played just one quarter. Is she okay? “She is going to have a lot of volume in the rest of this tournament, so it’s important to keep her as fresh as possible by sharing the load, while still practising the combinations.”
Helen Housby is looking good. “I think the season that’s she’s had with the Swifts in Sydney has built not just her physically but her court craft as well. Her shot has always been there, but we’re now seeing much more effort to the ball, and effort off the ball. It’s nice to see her take charge in that circle.”
Tracey Neville (England, coach)
On Nat Haythornwaite: “Nat offers great flexibility across the line as wing attack/goal attack, she’s really consistent. What you see is what you get, 100% possession. She controls the pace of the game, and her speed, there’s not many people that can stop her.”
Were you tempted to put your senior players back on when the score got close? “I think that’s a lifesaver. I think the attacking end were showing they’ve proven themselves in January that they can come out with a tough win in that Quad Series against South Africa. That is another option in that attack end, Helen back, Nat out, she generates a lot of energy and speed in that goal attack position as well as wing attack.”
“I think we’ve got a few things to do, we’ve got a starting seven we’ve got to do. You like to see your best seven out there. But if they’re not performing, then who takes that spot and can they perform better? The match up today, we had to put Geva back on, which was a lifeline, but then we gave an opportunity to one of our young up and coming defenders. We could have stuck with our captain, but, these girls deserve a chance, they’ve worked hard to get here.”
“I really had every confidence in that circle.”
How important has the regular Quad Series been to you? “It is just having that regular competition. In that last four-year cycle, teams would pick and choose not to play against you, and who they would. The regularity (of the Quad series) is improving international netball. Seeing some of the top nations, and the players are accessing the best leagues in the world in England, New Zealand and Australia. So the players are going into full time programs, they’re training full time, so the level of mental and physical toughness is a lot higher.”