Comment & Analysis @paulprenders
England beat Uganda in opening game of Vitality International Series
Last Updated: 30/11/18 10:32am
Vitality Roses marked their return to home soil with a dramatic 50-46 victory over Uganda at Liverpool's Echo Arena on Tuesday night.
Following a second-place finish in the Quad Series in September and a 3-0 defeat in the International Series against Jamaica in October, the Roses returned to winning ways, although the improving Ugandans provided stern opposition.
Belying their No 7 world ranking in their first series in England, the She Cranes took Tracey Neville's team deep into the closing minute before victory was finally secured.
England took to the court in Liverpool, the venue for next year's World Cup, in front of a lively crowd keen to welcome the national team back to English soil following their brilliant Commonwealth Games gold medal in Australia and fittingly it was the Gold Coast matchwinner who saw them over the line.
Helen Housby's unerring accuracy under the posts eventually sealed a four-goal victory, landing each of England's final six goals to repel a thrilling final quarter fightback from Uganda.
Vitality International Series
|Friday||Vitality Roses||v||Uganda||Copper Box|
|Sky Sports Mix, 6.45pm|
|Sunday||Vitality Roses||v||Uganda||Copper Box|
|Sky Sports Mix, 2pm|
Neville named a strong team, the absence of Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Beth Cobden and Chelsea Pitman of the Commonwealth Games starting seven only underlining the depth of players now available to Neville.
Serena Guthrie, who has re-joined Team Bath for 2019, captained the team while Rachel Dunn was handed a start and the veteran Wasps shooter was on target early as the Roses capitalised on early turnover ball to forge an early three-goal lead.
The pattern continued throughout the opening 15 minutes. Jodie Gibson coming on to replace the injured Layla Guscoth did little to disrupt the momentum as Gold Coast hero Housby joined Dunn in making little mistake under the post, Dunn's goal in the final second establishing a seven-goal lead after the first quarter.
With Peace Proscovia and Racheal Nanyonga linking well for Uganda the visitors stayed within touching distance and when Dunn's radar dipped the She Cranes took advantage to ensure the Roses didn't pull too far away.
Nanyonga drew Uganda to within six as the first half drew to a close but a run of three goals in succession saw England finish on a high and lead 30-21 at the interval after Proscovia effort fell short.
Following a first half littered with turnovers from both sides, it was Uganda who raced out of the blocks closing to within five goals as the Roses struggled to find their way possibly lacking match sharpness against a Uganda team whose domestic season only finished earlier this month.
George Fisher was introduced from the England bench and started with a goal immediately and a quickfire burst helped Neville's team re-establish their lead, Natalie Haythornthwaite launching a spectacular pass stretching half the court to find the Mavericks shooter.
At the other end Eboni Usoro-Brown was beginning to get the better of Proscovia and Gibson was proving invaluable on the intercept as Uganda refused to go down without a fight.
Having edged the third quarter, Uganda entered the final 15 minutes having reduced the deficit to seven goals and rather than shrink it was the She Cranes who continued to chip away at the difference - matching Housby and Fisher while capitalising on turnovers to close within just four goals.
With the gap as small as it had been since the first half, England missed the chance to increase the lead to five and Proscovia made them pay with back-to-back goals, first following the turnover and then on Ugandan centre-pass.
When Housby was punished under the posts, Uganda closed to within one and, having burst into life, Proscovia levelled the scores with just over five minutes remaining.
A Gibson interception gave England the chance to open up the lead again. Sasha Corbin found Housby who made no mistake under the posts and a third score on the bounce from the Commonwealth matchwinner saw the Roses 46-43 in front again.
Housby's heroics down the stretch saw England eventually seal victory and the two teams now head to London for the second and third games of the Series.
Vitality Roses Starting Seven
England's three-match series with Uganda continues on Friday with coverage underway on Sky Sports Mix from 6.45pm and Arena from 7pm. You can also watch the full version of Peace Proscovia: Netball in Uganda which is available On Demand right now.
A huge 2019 will feature another thrilling Vitality Superleague which is just two months away and starts with the Super 10 on Saturday, January 5, live on Sky Sports.
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