England make winning start to World Cup with victory over Uganda
The hosts were 64-32 winners at a packed Liverpool Arena.
Sixteen months after their dramatic win over Australia sent the profile of English netball soaring to new heights, Tracey Neville’s squad made a winning start to their World Cup campaign at a packed Liverpool Arena.
England’s 64-32 group stage win over Uganda was business-like and wholly expected but the sense of occasion in which it was played out illustrated the enormous strides made by the sport since Commonwealth Games gold.
A sell-out crowd in the home side of the two-court arena, with a vocal group of Ugandan supporters adding to the atmosphere, was testament to the surging interest in England’s bid to further dent Australia’s dominance of the sport.
Amid such an unusually raucous atmosphere, Helen Housby deserved credit for being accurate with all but one of her 19 shots before she was replaced by Rachel Dunn during the third quarter.
Goal attack Joanne Harten top-scored with 29 for a victory built on the tireless central presence of Serena Guthrie, who took over as captain after Ama Agbeze, who led England to gold last year, was dropped from the squad.
England can expect even more convincing wins over the weekend against Scotland and Samoa, which serve as virtual warm-up matches before they must step up to challenge the tournament dominance from Down Under.
Only then will the pressures of England’s hard-won profile begin to bite, but there were few signs of nerves against a Ugandan team, led by the impressive Peace Proscovia, who are far from considered tournament also-rans.
Proscovia’s excellent interruptions held England back early on before their power in the centre began to tell and they turned a 15-6 lead at the end of the first quarter into a relatively emphatic 31-18 advantage at half-time.
Australia captain Caitlin Bassett had insisted this week that the pressure rested squarely on England’s shoulders in light of their Commonwealth Games heroics plus their repeat win over the Diamonds in January’s Quad Series.
But there could be no doubt about the holders’ determination to make an early statement as they began the competition by sweeping aside Northern Ireland 88-24 in their opening group stage game.
New Zealand were less emphatic 64-45 victors over Malawi, while Jamaica, who came agonisingly close to beating England on the Gold Coast and are many experts’ tip to reach the final, outclassed Fiji 85-29.
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