Australia have bounced back from their upset Netball World Cup loss to New Zealand, decisively downing England 51-41 in their first qualification-round match.
The Diamonds warned their first defeat in 21 Tests had fired them up for redemption, and world No.3 England bore the brunt as the defending world champions eased to victory at Sydney’s Allphones Arena on Tuesday night.
Everything clicked again for the hosts, whose terrific timing, handling and midcourt transition was a world apart from Sunday’s sloppy display against the second-ranked Silver Ferns.
Not that England didn’t show up.
Joanne Harten had her eye in with 30 goals from 33 attempts while Serena Guthrie did her bit in the midcourt, getting hands to everything for an equal game-high seven deflections.
Caitlin Bassett recorded 28 goals from 32 attempts in her 50th Test appearance, but the 1.93m shooter was tormented under the post by relentless goalkeepers Geva Mentor and Eboni Beckford-Chambers.
Bassett’s West Coast Fever teammate Natalie Medhurst took the pressure off by popping up far more shots than usual, scoring her 1000th goal for the Diamonds on her way to a tally of 14 from 18 shots.
Coach Lisa Alexander held her faith in Sunday’s line-up, making a sole change in starting defender Julie Corletto for the first time this tournament as the 28-year-old continues to manage her workload due to a persistent knee problem.
Corletto’s run on in her preferred goal defence bib for her 50th Test relegated Sharni Layton to the bench.
Despite a couple of early wayward passes, the retiring defender combined beautifully with captain and goalkeeper Laura Geitz for a joint six intercepts.
One of Geitz’s caught Jade Clarke, throwing the England centre back as she drove towards the circle.
Along with Layton, Alexander chose to leave fellow defender Rebecca Bulley on the bench for the entire match, along with goal attack Erin Bell who didn’t inspire against New Zealand.
The coach brought on Paige Hadley in the third quarter as the Diamonds extended their lead to nine goals heading into the final stanza.
The youngster held her own against Guthrie, while Caitlin Thwaites came on for a run at shooter and racked up a quick nine from 13 attempts to relegate England to their first loss of the tournament.
Silver Ferns hold off Jamaica
Meanwhile, New Zealand controlled their match to down world No.4 Jamaica 55-48.
Starting with the same seven who two days ago upset Australia 52-47, New Zealand’s hard-working defensive zone pressured Jamaica into early errors.
Ahead 10-5 after seven minutes, the Kiwis looked in control but Jamaica stormed back to cut the deficit to 14-11 at the first break.
But it was in the second quarter that the Sunshine Girls really let fly. They found rhythm and timing to win the spell 16-10 and take a 27-24 lead into halftime.
Well-fed by her midcourt, and splitting the circle beautifully with elusive goal attack Shanice Beckford, towering shooter Romelda Aiken’s reliability under the post gave her 14 from 15 for the spell.
Jamaica won the quarter 16-10, shutting down New Zealand in their attacking third and restricting Kiwi shooters Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia to 10 from 15.
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu was happy with the way her team responded after half time, as they managed to shut down Jamaica’s flow in the centre third and restrict the supply of ball into Aiken.
“I think Jamaica are a very athletic and talented team, and they have a very good shooter, so it was a very rigorous assessment of us,” she said.
“I thought our second quarter was pretty disappointing but apart from that I think we won each of the other quarters by at least three.
“Losing by six in one quarter was quite a big wake-up call, but I was pleased with the way we responded after halftime.”