Australia’s defence of netball’s World Cup has opened in ominous style with the Diamonds hammering minnows Northern Ireland 88-24 in Liverpool while hosts England also got off to a winning start.
Lisa Alexander’s Aussie squad were predictably in complete control from the opening centre pass on Friday, and never let their intensity slip as they dominated each of the four quarters.
Australia’s quartet of shooters missed just four attempts between them, captain Caitlin Bassett leading the rout with 33 goals from 34 attempts before she sat out the second half.
Bassett had missed both warm-up matches in Manchester due to concussion, but found her range immediately by notching the opening five goals of a one-sided contest.
While Australia scored freely throughout, Northern Ireland struggled to crack an defensive unit lead by the debutant Sarah Klau, who snared four of Australia’s eight intercepts for the match.
“It’s everything that I could have imagined. Standing there, during the national anthem, I got the goosebumps like I thought I would. It was such an incredible experience – it’s always been a dream of mine,” Klau said.
The midcourt combination of vice-captain Liz Watson at centre, Jamie-Lee Price at wing defence and WA Kelsey Browne provided all the speed, toughness and creativity needed to help Steph Wood and Bassett shoot an incredible 44 of 46 attempts by halftime.
Alexander understandably made changes heading into the third quarter as shooters Caitlin Thwaites and Gretel Tippett were introduced to extend Australia’s 30-goal buffer.
Browne was named player of match after recording a game-high 26 goal assists during her three quarters of court time. Australia next play Zimbabwe, who celebrated their first World Cup win by beating Sri Lanka 79-49, on Saturday.
Later on Friday, hosts Commonwealth champions England opened their campaign with an emphatic 64-32 win over Uganda A sell-out crowd saw Helen Housby being accurate with all but one of her 19 shots while goal attack Joanne Harten top-scored with 29.
England turned a 15-6 lead at the end of the first quarter into a relatively emphatic 31-18 advantage at half-time.
The lead extended to 44-26 at the end of the third before England ultimately eased over the line.
Scotland also shrugged off a determined Samoa side to begin their assault with a 53-35 win which set up their sold-out clash with England on Saturday.
New Zealand were less emphatic 64-45 victors over Malawi, while Jamaica, who came agonisingly close to beating England on the Gold Coast and are many experts’ tip to reach the final, outclassed Fiji 85-29.
Barbados thrashed Singapore 69-34 while South Africa saw off Trinidad and Tobago 76-45.