England set up a mouthwatering tie against the hosts and world champions Australia after crushing Samoa 85-34 to top Pool B at the World Cup.
England had been expected to avoid Australia but the Diamonds fell to a surprise 52-47 defeat by New Zealand to finish second in Pool A.
After a hard-fought win against Jamaica on Saturday, the England coach, Tracey Neville, tinkered with her starting seven against Samoa as her side were faced with an easier fixture against a much lower-ranked opponent.
The gap in class between the nations was soon apparent, with England controlling the tempo and using their pace to create space through the court.
An attacking combination of Helen Housby and Pamela Cookey were feasting on easy chances as the Roses moved into an early 12-1 lead.
Serena Guthrie was switched to wing attack but proved to be as effective in this position as she defended well from the attacking third to allow England to push the score out to 22-4 after the opening 15 minutes.
It was more of the same in the second quarter, with the Roses’ defence in complete control.
Geva Mentor and Sonia Mkoloma have more than 220 appearances between them and they used all of their experience to quieten the Samoa attack. Being deployed at wing defence was Stacey Francis and she displayed her athletic ability with several fierce drives in the mid-court. At half-time the score had moved to 43-10.
As expected, a host of changes were made at the break, with only Sara Bayman retaining her starting position.
The new line-up struggled into gear and with a sympathetic crowd supporting Samoa, the team in blue started to gain some momentum. Extra impetus in the attacking third allowed them to stay with England for much of the quarter.
Coupled with a mixed attacking display in the third quarter by the Roses, Samoa had managed to limit the damage and trailed 61-24 heading into the final 15 minutes.
With a point to prove, England’s same seven remained on court and they responded brilliantly.
Jo Harten was shooting on sight and managed to find the target with a flurry of long-range attempts.
Bayman was working from circle to circle and putting her body on the line, despite the result already being a certainty. It was a professional display from a team who demand the best of themselves at all times.
At the final whistle, focus was immediately switched to the challenge that lies ahead in the next group stage.
The other two nations joining England and Australia in Pool F are yet to be decided. It is very likely to be South Africa and the winner of a crunch match between Uganda and Wales.
Today is England’s first scheduled rest day of the tournament.
Following a brutal three days of action and with the prospect of the Australians ahead, it comes at the perfect time.Reuse content