England suffered a gruesome 55-48 loss to New Zealand in the bronze medal game and left the Commonwealth Games empty-handed as Australia won the gold medal.
Jess Thirlby’s side failed to win a quarter against the Silver Ferns and failed to establish the same level of defensive dominance they had gained in the two teams’ previous pool encounter.
After leading 41-35 in the final 15 minutes, the home side brought the game down to a four goal tie but couldn’t come closer.
The loss puts a heartbreaking end to a competition at home and to the careers of outgoing defenders Stacey Francis-Bayman and Eboni Usoro-Brown.
Jamaica and Australia will face off for the gold medal in Sunday night’s final at the NEC Arena.
England vs New Zealand – Starting Sevens
|GS: Eleanor Cardwell||GS: Grace Nweke|
|AG: Helen Housby||AG: Te Paea Selby-Rickit|
|WA: Nat Metcalf||Washington: Gina Crampton (C)|
|C: Jade Clarke||C: Whitney Souness|
|WD: Laura Malcolm||WD: Kate Heffernan|
|General Manager: Layla Guscoth||GD: Phoenix Karaka|
|GK: Geva Mentor||GK: Kelly Jury|
England beat New Zealand at the end of the group stage by 10 goals, but achieving the same kind of performance after a disappointing semi-final defeat was never going to be easy.
Head coach Thirlby made two personnel changes for this winner-takes-all game, giving Laura Malcolm a start at the wing defense and opting to give Eleanor Cardwell the nod from the start at the shooter alongside Helen Housby.
Dame Noeline Taurua trusted Phoenix Karaka in goal defense, launched Kate Heffernan in wing defense and continued to favor Tea Paea Selby-Rickit in goal attack.
In their group stage contest, Geva Mentor got into the head of shooter Grace Nweke early on, but this time around 20-year-old Nweke stayed focused and strong for the full 60 minutes.
As a collective unit, New Zealand were stronger and cleaner in their work attack while their zone defense made life difficult for England.
The match was played goal for goal for the first 10 minutes in front of a raucous crowd before New Zealand edged out the first quarter by just one goal.
Neither team could break in the early stages of the second quarter. Then, six minutes before half-time, a missed shot from England and a drop ball in the circle allowed the Silver Ferns to chain the five.
With Kelly Jury taking another interception and New Zealand converting it into a goal, England had work to do in the dying minutes of half-time.
They did it through Francis-Bayman, clearly inspired in his last pro game, but the home side still lost the quarter by five goals.
After 30 minutes England had a 29-23 deficit to recover and Thirlby made further changes. Malcolm moved to the center and Imogen Allison came on the wing defense to try and increase the amount of ball bearing they won.
Francis-Bayman and Allison did their job superbly and brought England within four goals halfway through the quarter.
England then had chances to reduce the deficit further, but a few missed shots and grip in their attacking side prevented them from doing so.
A quarter-time draw 12-12 showed England could level with New Zealand, but it ultimately kept the Silver Ferns in control with 15 minutes remaining.
England vs New Zealand – Quarter by quarter results
Three-quarters of the time, Thirlby and England coaches told their team to breathe and then gave them key defensive messages, while Housby received treatment on his left leg.
Housby did not return for the final quarter, instead Jo Harten came in at the shot-stop with Cardwell moving on the attack on goal. Guscoth returned to goal defense and Francis-Bayman changed position. New Zealand remained unchanged.
The Silver Ferns started the final quarter by scoring three unanswered goals before Harten put England off the mark.
A key Mentor turnover with 10 minutes to go got the crowd going and produced a two-goal run. England pushed further to bring the game within four goals, but the clock was not on their side and New Zealand calmly maintained their own scorecard.
In the final minute, Usoro-Brown arrived at the goalie for her final seconds of elite-level netball. She received a huge welcome, showing her emotion through tears, and tears soon after flowed throughout the squad as the full-time whistle sounded and England’s defeat was confirmed. .
Gold for Australia after third quarter push against Jamaica
In the gold medal game, Australia claimed a fourth Commonwealth Games title after a 55-51 win over Jamaica.
Jamaica and Australia come into the gold medal contest with very different levels of experience at this stage of the Commonwealth Games. Jamaica had never had a gold medal game before, while Australia were approaching their seventh consecutive final.
The Diamonds managed to win gold in the third quarter, after being tied at 29-29 at halftime.
Stacey Marinkovich had made a call in the second quarter to change her roster in both circles, with Sarah Klau coming in at goalie to give Jhaniele Fowler something else to think about and Courtney Bruce switching to goal defense.
At the other end, Gretel Bueta had space to move on the attack on goal and Cara Koenen arrived at the shooter.
The change worked well before halftime, then the Diamonds surged in the opening minutes of the second half. They scored goal after goal without a reply, going 10-1, before the Sunshine Girls found their feet and responded.
Jamaica vs Australia – Quarter by quarter scores
The Diamonds held a six-goal cushion going into the final 15 minutes, then put down another fightback from Connie Francis’ side.
Adean Thomas had arrived on offense and made a significant difference and more ball rolling came into the hands of their dynamic defenders.
As a result, Jamaica went goal for goal with the Diamonds in the final quarter, but they had let themselves go too far.