Netball Nations Cup: England lose 64-48 to world champions New Zealand

Natalie Haythornthwaite
Skipper Natalie Haythornthwaite and her England side could not overhaul New Zealand in their opening game

England head coach Jess Thirlby said her side made "too many errors" in their defeat by world champions New Zealand in the Netball Nations Cup.

The Roses were beaten 64-48 in Nottingham, in their opening game of the inaugural tournament.

New Zealand controlled large periods of the game, shooting accurately and were resolute in defence.

"The first half was good but we made too many errors. It was a disappointing second half," Thirlby said.

"We were up against the world champions and yes they've got a couple of changes [to the squad from the World Cup] but there's some seasoned internationals in there," added the 41-year-old, after taking charge for her first game on home soil.

"And the changes they made in the game, especially in the shooting circle kept asking questions of us defensively.

"Across the game there's plenty to be proud of, and for all 12 to take to the court will bode well."

In a match that was almost six months to the day since New Zealand broke England's hearts and knocked them out of the World Cup in Liverpool, it was a case of history repeating itself, with the visitors again just too strong for the hosts.

A new-era New Zealand, without the retired Maria Folau and Casey Kopua and the rested Katrina Rore and Laura Langman, controlled the opening phases, with England struggling to find any rhythm.

New Zealand shooter Maia Wilson, 22, took her opportunity alongside new captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio in attack as fresh defensive duo Phoenix Karaka and Jane Watson also clicked from the outset.

England's confidence and style appeared in the second quarter as Kadeen Corbin, who had been relatively ineffective at goal attack, was hauled off with Eleanor Cardwell replacing her and George Fisher entered the game at goal shooter.

The changes sparked a blistering two-minute period where England scored five unanswered goals, helping them to turn a seven-goal deficit to just three by half-time (28-25).

However the Silver Ferns came out reinvigorated in the second half, minus Ekenasio, who was replaced by player of the match Bailey Mes at goal attack.

They showed their calibre and class to shut out any hope England had of overhauling them.

At 10 goals down England's Jade Clarke, 37, playing in her 173rd England game, barked orders at her team-mates as the error and penalty count again started to creep up, while also keeping her marker Shannon Saunders in check in the centre court.

But any time England chipped away at the lead, the world number two side would wrestle back momentum.

It was a dogged defensive display from Stacey Francis and Laura Malcolm and relentless movement in attack from skipper Natalie Haythornthwaite. But whatever England tried, New Zealand bettered and executed their own gameplan.

In the fourth quarter, Thirlby, with defeat all but certain, made a string of changes and handed Manchester Thunder centre-courter Amy Carter her debut.

New Zealand cantered to the final whistle, finishing the game with 93% shooting accuracy.

England can get their tournament back on track when they face South Africa in Birmingham on Wednesday (20:00 GMT) while New Zealand play Jamaica on the same day (17:30 GMT).

England starting seven: GK - Stacey Francis, GD - Kate Shimmin, WD - Laura Malcolm, C - Jade Clarke, WA - Natalie Haythornthwaite (c), GA - Kadeen Corbin, GS - Eleanor Cardwell

New Zealand starting seven: GK - Jane Watson, GD - Phoenix Karaka, WD - Karin Burger, C - Shannon Saunders, WA - Gina Crampton, GA - Ameliaranne Ekenasio, GS Maia Wilson

Jamaica 59-54 South Africa

Earlier in the day, Jamaica bounced back from a disappointing fifth-place finish at last summer's World Cup to beat South Africa 59-54 in the opening game of the tournament.

The Sunshine Girls looked powerful and focused from the outset, defending sharply through Shamera Sterling and Kadie-Ann Dehaney, while shooter Jhaniele Fowler was comfortably slotting home the goals at the other end.

South Africa never really recovered from their erratic start and trailed for the majority of the game, unable to repeat their famous win over Jamaica in Liverpool.

Jamaica centre and player of the match Nicole Dixon pulled the strings brilliantly in the centre court, keeping control whenever the Proteas threatened to come back.

Connie Francis' side, who are ranked fourth in the world, opened up a 10-point lead at the start of the second half and although a late South Africa rally closed the gap to four, Jamaica were deserved victors.

The win could be at a cost, though, as star defender Sterling hobbled off with what looked like a serious injury in the closing moments of the game.

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