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NZ team’s semi-final prospects in the balance

Slipping to a 54-45 loss to England has left New Zealand’s fate of advancing to the semi-finals of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games netball tournament hanging in the balance.

Now relying on other results, New Zealand still have a strong chance of advancing but were left to rue missed opportunities against a well-performed England.

Well in the contest through an even first half, the New Zealand threat never waned until the dying minutes when an increasingly confident England, with a handy lead, went on to post their first win over the women in black at a Commonwealth Games.

Stirring fightbacks on the back of an impressive defensive outing had New Zealand poised to strike on several occasions in the run home, but sharing the load expertly with 27 goals apiece, it was England’s well-versed shooting duo of Jo Harten and Helen Housby who ultimately decided the outcome.

With New Zealand battling for their survival in the tournament and England intent in going through pool play unbeaten, the old rivals produced a riveting contest from start to finish.

The New Zealanders remained with the settled starting seven of the previous match while England fronted with an experienced and well-performed line-up as both teams provide all the expected hustle and bustle early on.

Folau showed her class from the outset to settle early with her productive long bomb. At the other end Grant and her defensive partner Temalisi Fakahokotau ensured England’s impressive shooting duo of Harten and Housby were made to work hard.

With the action swinging back and forth, there was nothing to separate the pair as the teams went to the first break locked at 12-all.

The intent in an absorbing and high intensity clash remained intact on the resumption with the teams continuing to go toe-to-toe.

Energetic wing defence Samantha Sinclair did a fine job in slowing her fleet-footed opponent Chelsea Pitman while long-serving England goalkeeper Geva Mentor was a menacing presence in the New Zealand circle.

Grant was an inspiring figure for New Zealand, picking off numerous intercepts with great support from Fakahokotau but it was a late turnover that helped England edge to a 26-24 lead the main break.

With a re-jigged midcourt for the second half, including Claire Kersten coming on at wing defence, the New Zealand team took time to settle.

England continued to apply the pressure, the outcome relying on who took the few opportunities on offer and it was the women in red who did that the best during the third stanza.

Housby remained rock solid under the England hoop while England had the patience to overcome New Zealand’s staunch defensive efforts. Both teams showed outstanding athletic ability, centre Serena Guthrie being a key figure in helping push England out to a 40-34 lead at the last break.