N Ireland 34-69 England

England's Joanne Hofen in possession against Ireland at the Antrim Forum
England's Joanne Hofen in possession against Ireland at the Antrim Forum

Northern Ireland were predictably beaten by title holders England in the European Netball Championships at the Antrim Forum on Saturday.

However, thanks to their 50-40 triumph over the Scots in Friday's opener, a win over Wales in their final fixture on Sunday would secure runners-up spot.

NI struggled to cope with the height and intensity of formidable opponents.

Elaine Rice's team saved their best for last in digging deep to produce a spirited rally in the final quarter.

Although Northern Ireland's heads never dropped, the slick English relentlessly extended their lead in the first three periods.

A good crowd really came to life in the final quarter as the home side showed a renewed urgency, started matching their much bigger opponents physically and proactively took the game to England, scoring some of the best goals of the match.

Rice rung the changes for the third and the final quarter as most of the bench got game-time and a few positional switches will have helped the coach assess her options ahead of Sunday's shootout with Wales.

Having forced her way into the starting line-up on the back of an impressive final quarter cameo against the Scots, Graduates goal attack Oonagh McCullough again impressed in sharing the scoring responsibilities with skipper Noleen Lennon.