2019 Vitality Netball World Cup: England beat South Africa 58-42 to claim third place
New Zealand claim memorable gold medal by edging out Australia in dramatic final
By Paul Prenderville, M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Last Updated: 21/07/19 7:03pm
England bounced back from Saturday's crushing World Cup semi-final defeat against New Zealand to beat South Africa 58-42 and claim the bronze medal at the Vitality Netball World Cup.
In contrast to Saturday's slow start against New Zealand, England began quickly and never looked back to record a seventh win of the week, although it is their only defeat from eight games that will haunt them.
Beaten 47-45 by the Silver Ferns for an eighth consecutive semi-final defeat, the Roses lifted spirits to beat South Africa for the second time in the tournament and finish with the bronze medal.
Tracey Neville, taking charge of her final game, was close to tears as the Roses secured their bronze and how many of these players are back in four years, or even two for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, will be closely watched as England's experienced squad ponder their futures.
In truth, a third successive World Cup bronze was the minimum requirement this year after the Commonwealth gold last April that had raised hopes of another in Liverpool, this time a first in the World Cup.
But it wasn't to be as the old netball world order was maintained with Australia and New Zealand, winners or shared winners of all 14 previous tournaments, battling it out for a sixth successive final with Silver Ferns taking the glory by a solitary goal.
South Africa, who will host the World Cup in Cape Town in 2023 when the sport's showpiece is held in Africa for the first time, settle for fourth - their best showing since defeat in the 1995 final to Australia.
Neville and the players admitted afterwards that Saturday evening had involved plenty of video analysis as they sought to right the wrongs of their defeat to the Silver Ferns and they were as good as their word.
Nat Haythornthwaite, influential off the bench on Saturday, started while Jo Harten and Helen Housby retained the switch from the game against the Kiwis that had seen Housby revert to goal shooter.
And the pair were inspired missing just a solitary shot between them early on as the Roses led 14-12 at the end of the first 15 minutes - a much improved showing from their semi-final disappointment when they were smothered by New Zealand.
Serena Guthrie's timely interception stemmed a potential Proteas comeback midway through the second quarter and Harten helped England move nine clear at one stage with Housby remaining flawless.
But as they have done all tournament the Proteas refused to buckle and Lenize Potgieter helped them finish strongly and trailed 29-22 at the break.
Playing in her fifth, and probably last World Cup, Jade Clarke stepped up in the third quarter to turn over crucial ball and with Eboni Usoro-Brown also doing the same they were laying the perfect platform for Housby to maintain her perfect record.
With the Proteas beginning to tire after a week that has seen them, like England, threaten the established world order, the Roses pulled away in the closing quarter,
Amid huge noise and a frenzied atmosphere that has accompanied England through the week as the tournament has set record attendance numbers - the Roses responded, playing to the crowd to bring on Rachel Dunn to see out the match.
The veteran shooter is expected to be one of several players to retire or take a break from the international circuit in the coming weeks and months and while all were non-committal afterwards, the scenes of jubilant emotion among the players was obvious.
Bronze may not have been what they came for but the scenes all week in Liverpool have given the sport a platform on which to build as England wait to announce Neville's successor and news on the players futures.
As she hugged her players and applauded the crowd while her players embraced around her, it is where netball goes from here that will define her and this World Cup's legacy.
Netball is back on your screens in October with the Fast5 All Stars Championship. We will cover all the drama of the off-season as Superleague teams begin to shape their squads for the 2020 season which you can follow on Sky Sports.