First blood to England, who won the match 67 – 54. The pace was set in the first quarter where they took a 21-9 lead over the visitors. Building on turnover balls in their defensive centre area and by starving the Jamaican shooters of possession, they didn’t miss a shot in the first 15 minutes.
England’s quick ball through the mid-court helped build up the lead, wing-defence Sara Bayman and goal-defence Sonia Mkoloma successfully halted the ball’s progress into the circle. The England side extended their lead into the half-time break which gave the impression of this being a massive defeat for the Jamaicans, especially as they led 38 -19 after 30 minutes had the home side’s nearly 8,000 strong crowd Mexican-Waving with delight.
Jo Harten played the whole game as goal shooter with Pamela Cookey staying the GA bid and both should be pleased with their statistics 85% overall for Harten (35 from 41) with her partner nailing 32 shots and missing twice in the match (94%).
After a very shakey start the Sunshine Girls, sensing the crowd behind them, rose to the challenge in the third quarter thanks to a number of smart substitutions noticeably Tracy-Ann Robinson on as wing defence. The third quarter saw Jamaica coming back with some inspirational moves and tenacious attacking, winning this quarter by 2 goals (16 – 14) and the fourth quarter 19 – 15 when the flow of quality ball to their lofty shooter was stepped up.
Having not let the Jamaicans play with the ball in the early part of the match England was treated to a goal and agility lesson that surely gave them a real fright and a taste of their own medicine. At one point the Sunshine Girls were 18 goals down but came back with such a flurry to reduce the final deficit by 13 goals. The early sloppy passing and fumbles (including one that is still unexplainable) was to prove costly.
On paper the result may look comprehensively in favour of England but there were some real testing moments when the Sunshine Girls started to play. The series is now well poised as the girls head for Coventry.
If there was ever any doubt as to whether netball should be an Olympic sport, Cookey, Harten, Aiken and Forbes, has dispelled those concerns. Their collective performance, undoubtedly, were of the highest calibre, demonstrating that the sport is a true spectator sport and one that should not be left out in the cold. Netball gained some new supporters tonight, and we hope internationally, as we look to the future talents that exist in abundance in both Jamaica and England.
The score card:
Q2: 38-19 (17 –10)
Q3: 52-35 (14 – 16)
Q4: 67-54 (15 – 19)