Usoro-Brown reached her century of international appearances as the hosts beat Jamaica 56-48 to edge closer to a Vitality Netball World Cup semi-final spot.
While the milestone was ‘overwhelming’, the 31-year-old says that the performance that she and the Roses produced in front of a packed M&S Bank Arena ensured a truly memorable occasion.
“It was incredibly special out there today. It’s a bit overwhelming to get to 100 caps, but it was just as special as my first, and what a team performance out there tonight. We built across each of the four quarters and I’m so happy we came away with the result today.
“In Jade Clarke’s 150th game she won the Commonwealth Games gold medal, so we have a thing in the England team for having big matches on our milestone caps! I think today – never mind it being my 100th – we wanted to come out and play well.
“We saw Jamaica play against South Africa last night and we knew they were going to come for us, so it’s really pleasing to build confidence, belief and the consistency.”
England were again roared on by a capacity crowd, and Usoro-Brown says that the support for the Roses is driving Tracey Neville’s team on.
“I’m absolutely loving it. We were in the fan park yesterday signing autographs and everyone is behind us. We’re so humbled by it. Everyone in the crowd today was roaring and cheering, and my social media has been off the chain, so thank you so much to the fans. They’re definitely our 13th player, and hopefully that continues.”
Guthrie – named Player of the Match – was sensational throughout, driving England on as a strong third quarter paved the way for a 56-48 victory.
“Serena is just phenomenal. As an athlete and as a leader, she’s just incredible. She stands up for us in big moments and she leads by example.”
The captain’s display was one of many stand-out performances from an England team that passed its first real challenge of a home World Cup with flying colours.
Of the performance, Housby continued:
“That was very competitive netball – we were going goal for goal, which we maybe haven’t had in this tournament before now, but we knew we were up for it and we knew we were in a good place, and I think we’ve proven that with that performance.
“They say that the third quarter is the championship quarter – that’s where the top teams stand up, and I think we did that. We stuck to process and we showed our fitness out there and kept working hard.”
Today’s opening Group E, F and G fixtures mark the last day on which the action at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena will be spread over two courts, with England’s next game – against Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday – played in front of the entire arena as the tournament moves to a one-court format.
Given the atmosphere created by the home fans so far, Housby is certain that they can continue to spur the hosts and Commonwealth champions on.
“The crowd in here is incredible, and that’s when we’re still split over two courts. I don’t want to know what it will be like when it’s just one court! But the home support has been phenomenal and has felt like an eighth player – they give us so much energy.”
Despite the faultless shooting of Jhaniele Fowler, England produced an exceptional third quarter which powered them towards a 56-48 victory.
England started quickly – profiting from two early turnovers of possession to take a 4-1 advantage. Great work from Jo Harten set up Helen Housby to convert a rebound to stretch that lead out still further to 8-2, and that margin was maintained until Housby was penalised for footwork in the circle.
That triggered a Jamaican comeback, with Fowler excelling as the Sunshine Girls got back to within a single goal. However, Housby made no mistake with an opportunity in the final seconds of the quarter which restored the hosts’ two-goal cushion at the end of the first 15 minutes – 14-12.
The atmosphere inside the M&S Bank Arena went up a notch as the teams re-entered the court for the second quarter, and Eboni Usoro-Brown – making her 100th international appearance – responded with a great piece of defending to win back possession for the hosts. Following that, England stretched their lead back out to four, but once again, Fowler’s strength and composure in the circle ensured Jamaica found a way back.
The Sunshine Girls took the lead for the first time since the opening stages with five minutes of the half remaining, but wonderful work by first Guthrie then Geva Mentor wrestled momentum back for England. As in the first half, Housby had the ball in her hands as the clocked ticked down to end the quarter, and once again she made no mistake to give England back their two-goal advantage – 28-26.
England carried on that impetus with a blistering start to the third quarter, stretching their lead out to five.
Jamaica, however, again came back, with their defence put increasing amounts of pressure on England’s attack and slowing proceedings down. Adean Thomas at centre was competing readily with the inspired Guthrie as the Sunshine Girls brought the score back to 34-32.
Via improved shooting from Harten and one particularly impressive piece of play from Jade Clarke, though, England again began to build a lead. Sloppy play from Jamaica and increased space in the circle for Harten and Housby saw England race into a 36-44 lead at the end of the third quarter, a period of the game which would turn out to be decisive.
The Roses came out of the blocks fastest in the final quarter, with three goals, but the Sunshine Girls matched that almost instantly; the speed at which the Jamaicans transitioned play showed their remaining belief that they could still overturn the deficit.
However, the irrepressible Guthrie seemed forever on hand to quash Jamaican hopes, finding turnover ball in seemingly impossible situations.
She and her team-mates were applauded off by a rapturous Liverpool crowd at the final whistle, after their 56-48 win edged them closer to the semi-finals and put Jamaica’s final four hopes in real doubt.
Jhaniele Fowler, Jamaican goal shooter and captain said:
“To be honest, the expectations were great and we have a talented team, but talented teams also finish last sometimes so I guess we have to fight hard to come back again.”
Serena Guthrie, England captain and Player of the Match, said:
“Obviously we’re very pleased. They’re a tough team and we knew we were going to be in for one hell of a game and it was that. It was a high quality game and it was probably our first real test so to come off after what is our fourth game in a row, having put in a performance like that, I think we can take a lot of confidence from that going forwards.”
Guscoth ruptured her Achilles during the first quarter of England’s win against Scotland, and watched from the sidelines as the Roses made it three wins from three Group D games against Samoa today.
After seeing her side complete a 90-24 victory, Neville described the impact that Guscoth’s injury has had on the group.
“It’s heartbreaking for Layla’s World Cup to be ending now. When these things happen you have to look at the person rather than the athlete, but in this circumstance the show must go on and the team know that.
“There was emotion last night – there’s nothing wrong with showing emotion, that means she means a lot to us. If there wasn’t that emotion shared I’d be really worried within the team, however we walked out of our team meeting and went into dinner and the next minute they were doing pranks on each other and stuff like that.
“Sometimes you just need to come together in times of hardship and you prepare and plan for this. If I was going into war, this is the group I’d like to take with me.”
Neville was also full of praise for the M&S Bank Arena crowd, which has created a partisan atmosphere for all three of England’s fixtures so far.
“I actually thought I’d get used to the atmosphere over this tournament, but it seems like the crowd is getting louder and the passion is getting more intense! It’s really helping our team, so we hope that it continues as the tournament goes on.”
Tracey Neville’s side were once again backed by a raucous home crowd at the M&S Bank Arena but the biggest cheer of the morning came before the game had even begun when Layla Guscoth, ruled out for the rest of the tournament after rupturing her left Achilles against Scotland, emerged courtside to sit on the bench with the rest of her teammates.
The two sides had faced each other three times in the World Cup, with England winning all three, and the last meeting had come in 2015 with England comfortable victors on that day.
On this occasion, England got into their attacking stride quickly as they raced into a 4-0 lead with their fluid passing proving too much for their opponents.
Samoa eventually began to settle, and the two sides started to trade goals with the goal shooters on both sides, Jo Harten for England and Toa Tanimo for Samoa, shooting at 100% in the opening exchanges.
As the quarter wore on, England began to impose themselves on Samoa, forcing 12 turnovers as they built a commanding lead which had extended to 15 by the end of the period. Harten continued her efficient shooting making all 15 of her goal attempts as the first quarter finished 22-7.
Samoa were finding scoring opportunities much harder to come by as England’s defensive play, led by Geva Mentor and Eboni Usoro-Brown, seemed to get better and better as the half went on, limiting Samoa to just five goal attempts in the entire second quarter.
It was Harten who continued to be the star of the show, however, as she finished the half with 100% shooting. She made all 31 of her goal attempts as England went into half time with a 43-11 lead.
As has been the case for the majority of the tournament, Tracey Neville continued to make changes, and after Rachel Dunn replaced Harten at half time she instantly picked up where she left off against Scotland, scoring two quickfire goals.
Samoa also made changes themselves as goal attack Eseta Autagavaia started the third quarter well, making her first two goal attempts to keep the scoreboard ticking over for her side.
Dunn and Natalie Haythornthwaite continued to build on the Roses’ lead, but Samoa also enjoyed their joint-best scoring quarter as they made seven of their eight goal attempts with Tee Salanoa and Autagavaia shooting a combined 87.5%.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 65-18 lead, the Roses continued to mix and match different combinations and it was a much more even start to the final period.
Once again though, England began to dominate as the minutes ticked by and Dunn and Harten, who returned from the bench for the fourth quarter, continued their shooting form to lead the Roses to victory.
Victory for England means they advance to Group G of Preliminaries Stage Two with six points, whilst Samoa move into Group E to join Singapore as they search for their first win.
England’s Jo Harten said:
“We just had some fun out there today, letting the ball go, off the pass, off the shot and it was a good win and a good performance.
“We had to respect Samoa. We put out a really strong team and we had to get off to a good start but once we had the jitters and the nerves out the way we were just having fun out there.
“The crowd were awesome. I don’t think I’ve played in front of a home crowd like that before. Every goal, every pass – you could feel them playing it with us. They’re really getting behind us not just in the arena but around the country.”
The 27-year-old, playing in her debut World Cup, limped out of the action this afternoon, and it has been announced that she suffered a ruptured Achilles.
England coach Tracey Neville said:
“Layla is an amazing addition to our team and we are so disappointed that she won’t be joining us on court for the rest of this tournament.
“It is devastating that her journey in this World Cup is over but myself and all of the Roses are by her side supporting her through this time. We will do everything we can to ensure she is back playing again soon.”
The Roses secured their second win from two games with victory over Scotland this afternoon, thrilling the capacity crowd.
After the victory, Clarke said:
“We’ve been building this up in our minds, thinking about how amazing the atmosphere is going to be when we walk out in front of a home crowd, and it hasn’t disappointed.
“It’s been sell-out crowds and they’re all going mad for every little good thing that we do! It’s just so nice to have everyone on our side and hoping we do well.
“As elite athletes you always have to have some nerves – I’d be worried if we didn’t, but I think we use them to the best and we’re just loving be out there.”
Of the performance against the Thistles, she added:
“We wanted to use this game to really build, so it was another step up. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I think we’re getting better each game, and we’re looking forward to another hit out against a different style in Samoa.”
England were dealt a blow though, when Layla Guscoth limped off in the first quarter.
“We’re a team that will always stick together, and we’ve got Layla in our thoughts right now. She’s being assessed, so we’re not thinking the worst just yet, and we’re looking forward to getting around her.”
England coach Tracey Neville chose to rotate her squad; Jo Harten, Geva Mentor and captain Serena Guthrie were all named on the sub’s bench from the start.
By contrast, Gail Parata – Neville’s counterpart for Scotland – selected an unchanged starting seven, keeping faith with the players who had earned their opening-day win over Samoa.
England started positively, as a first-minute interception by Jade Clarke led to Rachel Dunn slotting home. The goal shooter then added four goals in quick succession to give the Roses a 5-1 lead.
After a nervy start though, Scotland rallied to bring the score to 9-6. As they stretched away again though, England were dealt a blow when Layla Guscoth limped off in the closing stages of the first quarter – a quarter which England ended 18-9 ahead.
Housby opened the scoring in the second quarter, before attacking partner Dunn then kept up her 100% accuracy. Scotland’s Bethan Goodwin was starting to find her range after a wayward first quarter, however England continued to benefit from some loose Scotland passing to extend the scoreline to 25-13.
The crowd lapped up a stunning pass from Dunn, who then finished the move by netting her 17th goal. Following another intercepted Claire Maxwell pass, Housby was then able to extend the Roses’ lead to 13 goals.
It was deep into the second quarter when Dunn registered her first missed attempt, however it mattered not to the partisan crowd, as England went in at half time 35-20 in front.
For the second half, Neville made several positional changes, bringing on Chelsea Pitman, Natalie Haythornwaite and Guthrie. The latter was straight into her stride, with a trademark interception setting up Dunn’s 29th goal of the game.
Scotland took their turn to make some substitutions, with Maxwell not having the impact she would have hoped for. Dunn’s reach and ability to find space meant that she was still excelling in the shooting circle, and her buzzer beater took the third quarter score to 55-26.
In the fourth, Scotland ceded possession from their initial centre pass; the desire of the England defenders for the ball, as so often, proving decisive. Goal number 40 for Dunn extended England’s lead to almost 30, however Lynsey Gallagher’s 92% shooting accuracy was keeping the scoreboard ticking for the Thistles.
Fittingly though, Dunn was in the action right up until the end, finishing with 49 of England’s 70 goals, from her 52 attempts.
England’s Jo Harten said:
“I think it was a pretty clinical performance in the end – maybe patchy in parts, but that’s what you get in a World Cup, when you’re backing up day after day. We’re pleased with how we pulled up from a really physical game against Uganda yesterday and onwards and upwards for Samoa tomorrow.”
Scotland’s Emily Nicholl said:
“I think it was a tough game but it’s a really good test for us ahead of Uganda. Tough, but we’re proud of what we put out there. We set targets before the match and we feel that we hit most of them, so we’re on track and we’re looking forward to the rest of the competition now.”
Tracey Neville’s side ran out 64-32 winners to open their account at the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019.
Guthrie said after the win:
“We’re obviously relieved – there were some nerves out there today and I think that showed in certain things that we did out there. But it’s a home World Cup and we’re happy to get that first win.
“We weren’t really allowed to get a flow going tonight, but that’s not a bad thing – this is a World Cup and teams won’t be making it easy for us. I’m pleased with the way we dealt with some things and kept the scoreboard ticking over.
“There are so many different teams with different styles here and you’ve got to mix it up, and that’s what it was about for us tonight. It wasn’t perfect and we won’t be 100% happy with some of the stuff we executed out there tonight. While it’s a good start, there’s a bit of work to do.”
Among the reasons to celebrate for England tonight was goal shooter Jo Harten reaching her century of international caps.
Of her team-mate, Guthrie said:
“Jo’s a stalwart for us. It’s her 100th game for us tonight so it was amazing for us to get that win for her. She’s an incredibly passionate player who provides a lot of composure for us, so she’ll be key for us moving forward in the competition.”
Tracey Neville’s Roses made a strong start against Uganda after making a spine-tingling entrance in front of their home crowd.
England were switched on from the beginning, with goal shooter Jo Harten – winning her 100th international cap – starting well, and Helen Housby soon following suit.
Despite the best efforts of She Cranes shooters Peace Proscovia and Rachael Nanyonga, the final five minutes of the quarter saw a calculated England move into a commanding position, leading 15-6 at the end of the first period.
The second quarter was a closer affair, with England appearing unsettled as Uganda remained persistent, with Proscovia and Nanyonga displaying impeccable precision in the shooting circle.
At the other end though, Uganda’s defence could not hold England back as Serena Guthrie, playing in her third World Cup, and Chelsea Pitman were able to feed the impressive Harten. Uganda’s increased confidence in the second quarter prevented England from dominating, but the hosts still led by 10 goals heading into the third quarter.
Uganda showed their physicality in defence as they attempted to hold off England in the third quarter, but the Roses were in complete control going into the final quarter, leading 44-24.
The fourth quarter was similarly competitive, and one foul too many meant that Uganda’s centre Stella Oyella was sent off the court.
The Roses found their second wind, and worked hard to play the ball into Rachel Dunn, who converted 17 from 19 shots after her introduction. England were equally as impressive at the other end of the court, dealing well with an increasingly physical game to only concede six goals in the final quarter.
In front of an appreciative home crowd, England ran out 64-32 winners to open their home World Cup in solid fashion.
England’s Rachel Dunn said:
“Uganda are a really tough team, and after the test series we had against them last year, we knew they’d be a strong side. So getting them first out meant we had a few nerves to get over, but I think that performance sets a benchmark for us to build from.
“We felt the nerves in the warm-up, but I think the performance was good. The girls went out there and got a lead, and we didn’t look back from there.
“It was good to get a win, and a good win as well. It’s been a lot of years in the making, and it was great to get out there and get a win on the board in front of the amazing crowd.”