Commonwealth Games Netball: Anita Navin blogs on England's last-gasp loss to Australia

England are so close but it's not over yet...

By Anita Navin.   Last Updated: 08/10/14 12:29pm

Joanne Harten: is dejected after England were defeated by Australia during the Pool B netball match

Joanne Harten: is dejected after England were defeated by Australia during the Pool B netball match

So close England and not so far away from gaining that most wanted victory over the Australian Diamonds.

They say people make Glasgow and on Saturday it was Jo Harten for England who confirmed her status as one of the best shooters in the world of netball.  

"Distraught, tearful and amazed, Harten had a mind set clearly cementing the fact that this game was in her grasp but then it was lost in the last minute of play."
Anita Navin

Harten displayed her full repertoire of shooting court craft when up against the Aussies. 

As the English recover from what was a cruel ending to one of the best displays of netball on the world stage by the England side, it is the Aussies who celebrate a 49-48 victory.  It was England who led for a significant part of the game and, at times, by a six-goal margin. 

Lisa Alexander, the coach of Australia, made it quite clear to her seven entering the court for the final quarter that there would certainly be no tomorrow and this game had to be won.  

Play with 'some heart', she firmly communicated to her squad and it paid dividends in the end. Trailing by three, entering the final quarter (score 39-36), Australia delivered a fourth quarter to silence the crowd and secure the victory to create their preferred pathway to the final rounds of the netball competition. 

In the final seconds of the game Australia clawed back the lead leaving Harten and the England camp devastated.

Australia did claw back but it is often a term connected to Harten who carries a nickname in the ANZ competition of 'the claw' for her ability to use that characteristic left hand to grasp the ball in the most difficult and contested circumstances. 

Harten played a phenomenal role in the attacking unit for England and became a play maker in the attack to weave and carve up the strong defensive pressure from Laura Geitz and Julie Corletto. 

It might have been the marathon race the day after in Glasgow but this was Harten's most notable performance and she herself covered more distance, distributed more ball and potentially delivered a netball marathon of goals and goal assists in this game. 

Partnered by Kadeen Corbin in the shooting circle and connecting with Sasha Corbin on the WA, Harten was settling for nothing resembling second best. 

Drained at the end of the game after steering her attack unit through 60 minutes of exceptional netball, Harten's face told the story. Distraught, tearful and amazed, Harten had a mind set clearly cementing the fact that this game was in her grasp but then it was lost in the last minute of play. 

England had 61 attempts at goal compared to 59 of Australia and with a first quarter lead of six goals (16-10) the score in the final quarter of 9-13 sadly indicated the dominance of the Aussies in the latter stages.

Geva Mentor also played a significant role and disrupted so much of the Aussie play, particularly in the first half with Caitlin Bassett struggling to dominate in her comfort zone around the post and mid-area of the shooting circle.

Mentor achieved the highest tally of interceptions and deflections in the game, perhaps confirming now that she is indeed the best defender in the world.

Clarke's century

Jade Clarke, the England captain, achieved her 100th cap in this game and although replaced by Bayman for the final half she is in fact emerging as one of the world class midcourters on show in Glasgow. Clarke might reflect and be a little disappointed she did not re-enter the game given the several falls of Serena Guthrie who was the target of some very tight dogged one-on-one defence from Layton at WD for Australia. Who knows what might have happened if England could have called a time out when Guthrie hit the deck with six minutes remaining - could England have developed a closing out strategy to clearly achieve the victory? England will now need to regroup and look to potentially disrupt the NZ Silver Ferns in the play-off stages if they are to achieve their goal of a place in the Commonwealth Games final. England will now have addressed the many positives coming out of this game - England showed more consistency than in previous games and with a very low error tally (just five recorded compared to 18 for Australia) there is a very different picture emerging between number one and three in the world.

Tactical challenges

Malawi, meanwhile, delivered a crowd-pleasing performance to almost conquer the stalwarts from NZ losing by only three goals (47-50). Led effectively by coach Mary Waya, The African Queens delivered the ball to Mwai Kumweda with ease and conveyed their ability to match up to the top teams in the world. The netball family eagerly awaits the pool match between Jamaica and Malawi following this surprise result. So for Australia and NZ it may not be a straight road to the final after witnessing some of the best performances by England and Malawi. All coaches are now earning their position by having to navigate through some of the most difficult on-court tactical challenges.

Upsets

England met South Africa in the pool on Sunday evening and for coach Anna Mayes it was a little too close for comfort and a Jekyll and Hyde situation for her to manage after the performance against Australia. Losing the first quarter by one (8-9) England were desperately trying to connect through the court. It was the work of Mentor, Clarke and Harten who ensured England stayed in touch with their game plan. South Africa were in form and often defended the possession of England by dropping to the front space rather than mark the ball carrier closely. Simple it may sound but this proved highly-effective. Rachel Dunn replaced Kadeen Corbin at half-time with Bayman (C) and Francis (GD) also entering the game. Dunn produced a solid performance in quarter three scoring 16/18. Captain Jade Clarke earning her 101st cap found herself in the WA position replacing Sasha Corbin for the second half. England remained strong and eventually came out with the victory and the score line of 41-35. The twists and turns and strong challenges on the top four continues with Malawi and South Africa looking to deliver an upset in this competition.

What are your views on the games so far? Which players have stood soot? Where and how did Australia conquer England? Thoughts to @netballpundit and @SkyNetball.

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