England’s gold medal hopes over as Australia dominate netball semi-final

Australia’s Gretel Bueta and Layla Guscoth of England compete for the ball during their semi-final at the NEC Arena

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If revenge is a dish best served cold then Australia dished up hosts England a liberal portion of double helpings.

Four years after Helen Housby’s last-gasp heroics denied them netball gold on the Gold Coast, in front of their disbelieving home fans, they plucked the Roses petal by petal in a one-sided Commonwealth Games semi-final.

Jess Thirlby’s team arrived with confidence brimming after a win over world champions New Zealand; in contrast, the Diamonds were reeling from a shock defeat to Jamaica, who they now take on in Sunday’s final.

However, they took the lead early and never relinquished it, their high-pressure game asking questions that England simply failed to answer.

They will now need to reset their sights on another match with the Silver Ferns for bronze, the same medal they won at the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.

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“We need to acknowledge this loss and own it,” said captain Natalie Metcalf. “We’re a really close group and we don’t want to leave the Games with nothing to show for it. They got ahead too early, too soon and we gave ourselves too much work to do. We just didn’t look after our turn on the ball well enough.

“We’re taking lots of confidence from the fact we beat New Zealand in the group stages and there is still so much to play for. We’re gutted not to be able to make the final but it’s really important that we regroup and pull together. We’ve got to look at what went wrong and correct that.”

Thirlby made changes to her starting line-up, drafting in the experienced Jo Harten to replace the in-form Eleanor Cardwell in front of the post.

But that wasn’t where the game was lost. The experienced Geva Mentor, in her sixth Games appearance, struggled to exert herself on Australia’s free-scoring Gretel Bueta, while the Diamonds had a vice-like grip on centre court, England clearing missed Serena Guthrie who announced her retirement earlier this year.

“Sport is brutal,” said Thirlby. “If you play well and lose, you can get your head around it but we just gave ourselves a mountain to climb.

“There was nothing in there we didn’t expect but we were found wanting for ball and that’s uncharacteristic for us. Australia were too smart but we expected more of ourselves.”

Joanna Weston of Australia and England’s Eleanor Cardwell compete under the post

Thirlby knows what it’s like to lose a semi-final at the Commonwealth Games on home soil – and then the bronze medal consolation game that follows it.

And Housby, the hero four years ago, said they’ll be no wallowing in this defeat, while admitting England were less than impressed by some of the officiating calls in the game.

“They were better and smarter than us, we had periods in the game where we matched them but they were not consistent,” she said.

“A medal is still a medal, so playing for bronze against New Zealand is going to be huge. We’ve got one over on them already but you can’t rely on that.

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“Having a loss like that really puts into perspective everything we have to work on so we’ll go back to the drawing board and hopefully come back really strong.”

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