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England netball captain Natalie Metcalf promised her team will come back fighting in Sunday’s bronze medal clash with New Zealand after seeing their hopes of retaining their Commonwealth Games netball title dashed at the NEC in Birmingham.
England were outclassed 60-51 by Australia, who fought back from the shock of losing their last group game against Jamaica to largely dominate proceedings, establishing a six-point half-time cushion before easing into the final.
Metcalf’s side beat New Zealand, the reigning world champions, in a pool game on Thursday and the 29-year-old said they would swiftly put the disappointment of defeat behind them and concentrate on finishing the Games with a medal.
“We’re gutted not to be able to make the final but it’s really important that we regroup and pull together,” said Metcalf. “We’ve got to look at what went wrong and correct that.
“We’re a really close group and we don’t want to leave the Games with nothing to show for it. We’re taking lots of confidence from the fact we beat New Zealand in the group stages and there is still so much to play for.”
England coach Jess Thirlby preferred Jo Harten to Eleanor Cardwell as goal shooter but abandoned that plan midway through the second quarter when she opted instead to introduce Cardwell in place of goal attack Helen Housby, the last-gasp heroine on the Gold Coast four years ago.
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England looked restless and second best in the middle, spilling turnover opportunities and providing no answer in defence to Australian goal shooter Gretel Bueta, who finished with statistics of 43 goals from 44 attempts.
“Sport is brutal,” said Thirlby. “If you play well and you lose you can get your head around it, but we just gave ourselves a mountain to climb.
“There was nothing in there we didn’t expect. We were found wanting for ball today and that’s uncharacteristic for us. Australia were too smart and we expected more of ourselves.”
Roused by the capacity crowd, England managed to claw back their deficit to four early in the second half, but it was to prove an all-too-brief interlude and midway through the third quarter a miss by Harten allowed Australia to go up the other end and extend their advantage to 10.
A 45-36 deficit at the end of the third was all but unassailable, and despite a boost in impetus from the reintroduction of Housby, temporarily reducing Australia’s lead to six, the result never looked in doubt.
“Having a loss like that really puts into perspective everything we will have to work on, so we will go back to the drawing board and hopefully come back really strong against New Zealand,” said Housby.
“We’ve got the one-up on them so far but we can’t rely on that. We know they will be changing a lot against us, and will be coming out to beat us this time round.”
New Zealand were hammered 67-51 by Jamaica earlier on Saturday, with goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler scoring all 54 of her attempts as the ‘Sunshine Girls’ booked their place in a Commonwealth Games final for the first time.