Netball: Australia ease their way into final

By Chris Barclay

Australia 51 England 33

A relentless Australia ominously closed on their ninth netball world championship by again condemning England to also-ran status with a dominant 51-33 at Trusts Stadium in Auckland tonight.

Australia had lost only once to England in 64 meetings - back in 1981 - and it was soon apparent the prospect of another upset was just as distant after England, striving for the first world title decider since 1975 in Auckland, were confined to just six goals in the second quarter.

Australia's shooters may not have been at their metronomic best - nailing an average 71 per cent of their attempts in the first half - but with their defenders applying a virtual chokehold they still posted a demoralising 25-16 lead at halftime, signalling the contest was effectively over.

They will play the winners of tonight's second semifinal between defending champions New Zealand and world No 3 Jamaica tomorrow.

Unusually wonky shooting, primarily by goalshoot Catherine Cox, was not costly underlined how expertly Australia's defensive screen was able to deny England, who had early cause for optimism after twice battling back from first-quarter deficits.

The first 15 minutes teased an appreciative crowd with the tantalising hint of the genuine contest the tournament had been waiting for. Instead, it developed into another thinly disguised mismatch as Australia pulled clear to eventually triumph by 18 points.

A compelling opening stanza was characterised by England's encouraging ability to regroup after Sharelle McMahon, and to a lesser extent Cox, compiled a mini-run for the Australians.

The title favourites led 3-0 and then 9-5 before smooth transitions by England, and some wayward passing by Australia and Cox's fragility under the post enabled the fourth ranked side to twice peg back potentially damaging deficits though they could never poke their noses in front.

A strong defensive display by an English midcourt marshalled by Jade Clarke also succeeded in disrupting Australia's flow but tellingly Australia still managed to lead 11-10 despite shooting an average 73 per cent in the first quarter.

Cox was responsible for a couple of glaring misses but crucially for England, goalshoot Louisa Brownfield and sidekick Pamela Cookey were unable to take advantage.

Typically, unflustered vice-captain McMahon steadied Australia and even Cox rediscovered her range with a couple of morale-boosting long-range successes to place England squarely in catch-up mode.

Australia tidied their own game up after halftime and forced England into a catalogue of poor options - and personnel changes - as they pushed out to an 11-point lead - 36-25 - entering the run home.

England's Australian-born coach Marg Caldow introduced Tamsin Greenway at goal attack for Cookey in a forlorn attempt to bridge the gap in the third quarter while counterpart Norma Plummer had the luxury of ushering wing defence Selina Gilsenan back from a knee injury suffered in the pool phase romp over Scotland.

The switch entering the fourth quarter was no reflection on Julie Prendergast who complemented the stingy goal circle pairing of captain Liz Ellis and Mo'onia Gerrard.

Otherwise Plummer stayed faithful to her starters, with the decision on who starts in the wing defence bib tomorrow appearing her only dilemma.

- NZPA

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 30 Jul 2014 10:39:13 Processing Time: 739ms