England’s hopes of a first Netball World Cup title are over after they were beaten 47-45 by New Zealand, who set up a final showdown with Australia for the gold medal on Sunday.
Having won Commonwealth gold last year, the Roses had high hopes of leaving the M&S Bank Arena this week with the title but the best they can now hope for is third as a familiar foe caused then more last-four heartache.
England have won just one of their 14 World Cup matches against the Silver Ferns and that has included semi-final defeats in 2011 and 2015, and on Saturday afternoon a third painful chapter was written.
Having clawed back an early deficit to lead at half time, the Roses made too many mistakes in the second half as an experienced Silver Ferns side put on a defensive masterclass to keep England’s Helen Housby and Jo Harten at bay.
The pair made just 45 of their 52 shots as New Zealand defenders Jane Watson and Casey Kopua turned the screw to inflict more last four disappointment on the Roses and a sold-out arena.
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2019 Vitality World Cup: Semi-Finals Australia 55-53 South Africa England 45-47 New Zealand
England still have the bronze medal to play for on Sunday in what will be Tracey Neville’s final game as coach while the Kiwis will face off against Australia for the title after the Diamonds edged past South Africa by just two goals.
For the sixth successive World Cup it will be a Trans-Tasman final – the Aussies chasing a 12th title and a fourth in succession, the Kiwis their fifth and a first since 2003 – all just three days after they faced off in a phase two classic that the Diamonds edged by a goal.
Neville went with her strongest possible line-up so it was a surprise when the Roses experienced line-up started slowly, a trademark long bomb from Maria Folau was matched by Jane Watson’s turnover from Pitman’s attempted feed which set the tone.
Watson was at it again in a fierce start and Folau was on target as the Kiwis opened the game up with five unanswered goals.
Remarkably Harten twice missed under the post before winning the ball back and feeding Housby to finally get England on the board with almost five minutes gone.
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England v New Zealand: Starting Sevens Mentor GK Watson Usoro-Brown GD Kopua Clarke WD Rore Guthrie C Langman Pitman WA Crampton Housby GA Ekenasio Harten GS Folau
Facing their biggest deficit of the tournament so far, the Roses clawed their way back into things and twice they drew to within one only to cough the ball up and allow New Zealand to capitalise – a theme that was to become familiar.
Housby’s unlucky bounce out on the buzzer summed up the first 15 minutes that had the Ferns three goals in front but the Roses improved dramatically in the second quarter.
A fast start saw them draw level at 13-13 but New Zealand’s went again forcing more England errors and winning back crucial ball for a blistering six-goal run.
Housby and Harten switched positions and Nat Haythornthwaite was introduced as a see-saw quarter swung both ways.
Having moved to shooter, Housby, as is her sense of the occasion, responded to a deafening crowd by bringing England back on level terms with two minutes until half-time.
Having initially struggled to find her range, Harten put England in front for the first time and added a couple more to end the half strongly and with the Roses three goals to the good.
Rather than power away, England saw New Zealand wipe out the deficit early on with Goal Attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio maintaining a 100 per cent shooting record as the teams went goal-for-goal.
Centres Serena Guthrie and Laura Langman were putting their bodies on their line as the captains sought to gain control and as the final minutes of the third quarter ebbed away it was New Zealand who forced the crucial turnovers that ultimately proved decisive.
England 45-47 New Zealand Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 England 9 15 9 12 New Zealand 12 9 15 11
Harten’s intercepted pass allowed the Kiwis to extend that lead to four early in the final quarter and while she made amends with one of her own to allow the Roses to get back within two they couldn’t find the crucial play to swing the game back in their favour.
As the pair traded blows down the stretch, England trying to force the turnover and New Zealand trying to protect their lead, the umpire’s whistle took centre stage until it finally called an end to the Roses dream.
After seven successive victories this week, a first defeat ended England’s campaign and while there is no shame in an agonisingly close defeat to a hugely impressive New Zealand, they will now have to refocus and match the bronze medal of 2011 and 2015.