Match report from Netball World Cup 2019, England v Jamaica, day 4, 15 July
In a showdown of such pressure and skill there would be no time to warm into the match. Jamaica could not afford be chasing down an 11-goal load as they had to on day three against South Africa. What resulted was a hint that England had not only figured out their own game plan, but they could execute for 60 minutes and also nullify some of the best opponents in the world. England kept their starting seven the whole game and in the end only needed to really make a move in the second half of the third quarter to take the win. Going down 48-56 the Sunshine Girls effectively have fifth place as their best possible finish in this World Cup.
It was a bright start for England who, thanks to an intercept by Helen Housby, an offside by Khadijah Williams, and a poor feed from the circle edge to Jhaniele Fowler, took a 5-1 lead. Both goal defences, Stacien Facey and Eboni Usoro-Brown, were happy to track smaller players outside the circle and use their bulk to try to knock them down. The Roses defenders have such intimidating presence that the Sunshine Goals feeders were second-guessing every pass. In contrast, Housby and Jo Harten could slip through small spaces and use deception to make the correct passing option very clear. England lead 9-4 halfway through the quarter.
The full court defence from England was excellent, blocking the middle channel, shepherding their opposition to one side, and forcing bad, desperate passes which could be captured by goal keeper Geva Mentor. Jamaica were gradually remembering that they needed to craft the ball to circle edge and then wait until Shanice Beckford strongly cut to draw attention from Fowler. In fact it was also Beckford taking two consecutive sensational intercepts on the transverse line that suddenly brought the scoreline almost to parity – the Roses only leading 14-12 at quarter time.
The second quarter saw Facey replaced by Jodiann Ward, creating more mobility in the Jamaican defensive circle. Progressively her combination with Shamera Sterling prospered, as they were not fooled by the evasive tricks of the English shooters, covering their moves for six seconds or more. Sterling blocked one of Housby’s early shots but the Roses goal attack managed to grab the ball first. There was fierce contest for every ball by Guthrie, often taking out the very slight Sunshine Girls midcourt, but not yet receiving a caution. However both sides were very aggressive, with 24 contact penalties each for the first half. It seemed that England were taking control before Ward took a gritty intercept at the centre pass to make the match within one. Then after drawing level umpire Fowler missed a definite replay by Beckford due to so many players obscuring his vision, letting Jamaica ahead by one with 5 minutes until half time.
The crowd noise amped up, testing the cool of the Sunshine Girls. They responded by being more and more decisive in their leads, while also being patient for the right feed to Fowler. Usoro-Brown was not always able to cover Beckford, and her fatigue meant that Beckford was incrementally able to take control of both feeding and the shooting circle. Then English senior players Mentor and Guthrie then delivered a couple of possession gains at just the right moments to give the Roses a drawn quarter. Tracey Neville was seen to walk to the change rooms immediately, not waiting for her players, perhaps needing to take a quicker solo breather before addressing her troops. England lead Jamaica 28-26 going into the half.
The excitement in the stadium continued to mount as Jamaica firstly dropped a feed short and then Khadijah Williams was called for held ball as the view to Fowler was obscured. England pounced on every loose ball with the exceptional stat of 21 pickups to Jamaica’s 8 for the game. Adean Thomas came on to centre when Dixon called time out for injury. There followed more wonderful screening and dodging from Harten with a characteristic sticky hand extended on 2.9 seconds for Pitman’s feed.
But a five-goal lead was not comfortable at all and half way through the third term Jamaica brought it back to 32-34. There were little momentum shifts both ways, but the noisy local supporters made it seem like England were dominating. Fowler was taking shots just that little bit further out which eased some of the pressure on her team. Ward was taken off and Kadi-ann Dehaney on to goal keeper with Sterling at goal defence.
The huge importance of winning was evident in the constant shoving from all players. In total there were only 19 obstructions blown for both teams, compared to 96 contact penalties. When Sterling heavily body checked Harten, flinging her many metres out of court, Harten was visibly ropeable, gesturing violently with her finger towards the Jamaican. The new defensive circle for the Sunshine Girls was disorganised for just a couple of minutes, and the Roses brought some bad pass turnovers down to successful shots, taking a strong 44-36 lead into the final quarter.
The Jamaican coaches reverted their changes to bring back on Dixon and Ward to centre and goal defence respectively. Their forwards had gone back to the first nervous minutes of the match, where the English defence herded them all to one side, and the attack had tunnel vision, not realising a good free option was available across court. No matter what good tracking the Jamaican defence had, once Pitman or Guthrie had the ball at the top of the circle they were destined for another goal assist. The Sunshine Goals gradually fell off the task, now down 40-51 with seven minutes remaining, whereupon they put veteran Romelda Aiken into goal attack.
Vangelee Williams continued to be a great driver of the ball and backup for the attack line, and Aiken gave a new tall option to improve attacking flow, but it was all too late. While Jamaica scored six of the last seven goals, they still went down in this match, and so did any realistic hopes of them making the medal rounds.
England 56 defeated Jamaica 48
Jamaica – Jhaniele Fowler GS, Shanice Beckford GA, Khadijah Williams WA, Nicole Dixon C, Jodiann Ward WD, Vangelee Williams GD, Shamera Stirling GK
Bench – Romelda Aiken, Rebekah Robinson, Stacien Facey, Adean Thomas, Kadie-ann Dehaney
Coaches – Marvette Anderson and Sasher-Gaye Henry
England – Joanne Harten GS, Helen Housby GA, Chelsea Pitman WA, Serena Guthrie C, Jade Clarke WD, Eboni Usoro-Brown GD, Geva Mentor GK
Bench – Rachel Dunn, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Natalie Panagarry, Francesca Williams
Coach – Tracey Neville
Umpires – Michelle Phippard, Gareth Fowler
Jo Harten – 27/30 (90%)
Helen Housby – 29/34 (85%)
Jhaniele Fowler – 43/43 (100%)
Shanice Beckford – 5/9 (56%)
Geva Mentor 6
Serena Guthrie 5
Shamera Sterling 3
Helen Housby 5
Khadijah Williams 4
Nicole Dixon 4
Chelsea Pitman 4
Serena Guthrie 6
Chelsea Pitman 5
Helen Housby 4
Jodiann Ward 15
Shamera Sterling 15
Vangelee Williams 14
Geva Mentor 12
Serena Guthrie 12
Marvette Anderson, Jamaica Head Coach
“It shows we have character that we can always make a comeback. It didn’t happen today but I still can’t ask for more.”
“That has been plaguing us from the start and it just came back to bite us. It might have been the turnovers. It might have been the discipline and not being able to stay with play. I can’t tell you. The ball is in the players hand. I don’t know what it was”
“We are competing for the ball. You can’t decide what the umpire is going to call. It all went down in competing for the ball. I don’t have a problem with that.”
Did yesterday’s tough match against South Africa affect today’s?
“No. What we did today we could have done yesterday in terms of changes. We didn’t do it yesterday. We are a pro group and I am sure we will bring the fight in the next two games. We still have two games to go. We are still representing our country.”
This is the first time you’re likely to miss semi-finals since 1995. What do you think about that?
“Things happen. We would have loved to have been in the semi-finals. We just have to move on.”
Tracey Neville, England coach
“It’s been a long four days for these girls, and obviously with a lot of the emotion we’ve had with losing one player, these girls really needed to be tested today, really needed to see where we’re at in this tournament. They were very clinical at times in that game when we really needed them to, but also the defence were absolutely stellar in winning us ball and giving us opportunities. Against one of the world class sides like Jamaica, that’s what you need to do.
“With Eboni having her hundred caps, she really wanted to come out with probably one of the classiest performances, and I thought she played REALLY well. It’s a tough job in that circle. It’s never a joy for any defender to play against Jhaniele Fowler. I think the work rate out the front by Jade, Serena, and some of our girls was absolutely excellent, to put them under pressure, create more passes, and put the pressure on the passing.
“You talk about a match-winning quarter, and that third quarter was ours. We just needed to hang on, and I think we did that excellently. You talk about being tested in a tournament, and THAT was a true test of character. There were a lot of fatigued players out there, both sides, but it was the MENTAL toughness that they come out with.
Jo Harten, England
“There’s probably going to be a few bumps and bruises tonight, there are already, but … it’s just netball. Like, everyone’s going for the ball, you put your body on the line, Jamaica are trying do exactly the same. I thought the umpires controlled the game really well, we worked really really hard to try and get flat ball in that circle, because Shamera Sterling is an awesome athlete, and sometimes you have to take a knock when you’re going for it. But all in all, yeah, happy with the performance today.
On maintaining focus when you know the hits are coming…
“I think normally it’s hard. For some reason, this competition and this team, we’re trying to have fun, and we ARE having fun, which kind of grounds you and brings you back down to earth, which is a really strange feeling. In all of my 102 caps I haven’t really felt this way before. Like, I’m enjoying playing with these girls. We’re working hard and playing for each other, I think that just keeps us in the moment, keeps us focused.
“All respect for Tracey Neville, she actually coached that game down to a T today, she set the game plan late last night, we weren’t sure who we were gonna be facing them [Jamaica] or South Africa. She had clear, specific instructions to us this morning watching the video tape, and you know, we stuck to that game plan. At half time, she told us to stick to the game plan and that’s what we tried to do.
“When we take longer than normal to get the ball in it takes more out of our leges, but we knew we couldn’t just lob it in. Shamera Sterling’s there, they’ve got active defenders. When the ball flows down to our attack really fast we know we potentially have to go back to the line and be patient with it. So, I think it’s just about being strong on attack AND defence, being connected, so if we do have to reset we’ve got our defenders there, if they need us for the quick breakout we’re there for them as well. Yeah that was all part of our game plan: patient with the ball, chess masterpieces from Tracey Nev, and yeah, trying to finish off and get the win.
“Layla’s [injured wing/goal defence player] gone down to London for assessment, I think we’ll hopefully see her back towards the end of the tournament, and we’ll complete our team of twelve.
Jade Clarke, England
“I feel absolutely amazing! It’s incredible to believe that that’s just one part of the tournament and we got so far to go, it was THAT intense, the crowd was THAT loud! Really happy that we were able to stick to the game plan, we prepared really well against an amazing Jamaica side that’s got such amazing players. We just dug deep and came through it at the end.
“It means so much! It means so much being at home and what’s happening with women’s sport in this country, the whole country is getting behind us and it still gives me tingles putting on that red dress as much as it did in the beginning, and I want to take this team as far as it can do before I retired, and I want it to happen now!
“We know with Jhaniele Fowler in there we need to put pressure on as far down up court as possible. I think we did have some heroes today, Serena with those intercepts, Eboni, Geva, it was a real team effort all through the court. It takes SO much concentration, it’s SO exhausting, but we just have to stick to it all the way through.
“Most of the wing attacks I play against are faster than me, so I’ve gotta use my brain, I’ve got to get my arms up to try and get in her vision, but yeah Khaijah is a great athlete and one of the best I play against.
“The patience we had today… those Jamaican defenders are so rangy, and Sterling, she can get to balls that no one else can get to, so you’ve got to put in about five extra passes before you get to it, but the endeavour that we had to just NOT to give the ball away, to keep going back to the line. Someone like Jo Harten, she’s got LOTS of flair so she has to rein it in, and just be patient, so I’m really proud of ‘em.
“I think we’re ALL passionate and I think you could see that on court today. We all have moments where we’re just so passionate about what’s going on. We all wanna win!