England begin netball title defence with big win over Trinidad and Tobago

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England began the defence of their Commonwealth Games netball title by cruising to a 74-22 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Birmingham.

Jess Thirlby was able to give court time to all 12 players as her side built on a 37-9 half-time advantage to ensure a winning start in Group B.

England are swiftly back in action against Malawi on Saturday and face sterner tests to come, not least against world champions New Zealand in preliminary phase.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Day One
Layla Guscoth was in dominant form against Trinidad (Tim Goode/PA)

Thirlby said: “Overall I’m pleased. We inserted some people and made some changes during the game, which we afforded ourselves the chance to do.

“In the main, what I saw was great impact off the bench and us problem-solving with real purpose. It’ll be a great settler for the group – there are a lot of smiley faces.”

England’s performance was under-pinned by 37-year-old Geva Mentor, who is competing in her sixth Games after making her debut as a 17-year-old in Manchester in 2002.

And it was a mark of how far the sport has progressed that Mentor was one of the athletes chosen to read out the Commonwealth Oath at Thursday night’s glittering opening ceremony at Alexander Stadium.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Day One
Gold medal rivals Australia also got off to a winning start (Tim Goode/PA)

“I was so proud to represent my team and my sport” said Mentor. “It was a phenomenal experience – Birmingham really stole the show.

“My heart was beating out of my chest and I was really nervous. Someone told me there were one billion people watching worldwide. If someone had told me that before, I think I would have melted.”

Australia, who were nudged into silver by Helen Housby’s dramatic last-second winner on the Gold Coast four years ago, served notice of their intentions with a crushing 85-18 win over Barbados in Group A.

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