England have been crowned World Netball Series Champions with a phenomenal win over New Zealand in the final at the Echo Arena. A fantastic Powerplay was the difference between the sides with Jo Harten ice cool in the shooting circle and Eboni Beckford-Chambers marshalling the defence.
Following their respective wins in the semi-finals earlier in the day, there was a buzz around the Arena as the final approached and the teams were treated to deafening applause as they took to the court. Early nerves were quelled when Harten sunk her first attempt to send the fans into hysteria. A see saw quarter had the Silver Ferns race into a 6 – 3 lead before Harten took aim from outside the circle and waved goodbye to a two pointer, that drew the teams level as the whistle sounded.
The second quarter saw New Zealand dominate and force a couple of turnovers following great work from Anna Scarlett and Shannon Francois. Again they pulled clear, 12 – 7. England refused to lie down and the scurrying of Serena Guthrie and Sasha Corbin was a joy to watch, penalties were called on the visitors and England took advantage. The hosts were trailing by three when time was called on the quarter but Harten still had a penalty shot to take from outside the circle. Just as in the first quarter the ball fell majestically into the net, the crowd were delirious and the momentum was with England even though they trailed 13-12 at half-time.
An intense team talk from Anna Mayes followed as the teams re-appeared to flames and music signalling that both sides had chosen this quarter for their Powerplay. The lead switched hands continuously in the opening exchanges as Cathrine Latu, Maria Tutaia, Pamela Cookey and Harten all showed their class. It was a case of who was going to blink first, it was New Zealand. Latu started seeing shots come off the ring with Stacey Francis supporting Beckford-Chambers excellently in collecting the rebounds; Harten and Cookey remained on fire. At the end of the third quarter, to the delight of those in attendance, England led 29 – 22.
The Silver Ferns knew that they would have to come out fighting and needed the big shots to fall in if they were going to complete an astonishing fight back. If they missed, England were on hand to gobble up the rebounds, waste precious seconds and stay ahead of their opponents. Tutaia was tasked with the job and an initial effort that was successful made the crowd take note. Thankfully for the largely biased support, her further two attempts missed and the excellent England defence controlled the rebound.
Time was in favour of the hosts and they beautifully played keep ball and recycled the ball between the thirds. An expectant crowd let out an almighty roar as the whistle blew and England were confirmed as Champions. IFNA president Molly Rhone handed out the winner’s medals, a jubilant Jade Clarke lifted the trophy and all that was left was to sign some autographs for a public full of adoration for what they had been lucky enough to witness.