England’s Netball World Cup dreams were dashed in Liverpool as New Zealand won a dramatic last four clash 47-45 to book a place in Sunday’s final against Australia.
Tracey Neville’s team clawed back from a nightmare start to lead 24-21 at half-time but a disastrous third quarter gave their opponents a three-point lead going into the last.
The deficit proved too tough to breach for an England team who must now somehow recover for Sunday’s third-place play-off against South Africa.
The warning signs were there early on as Maria Folau gave New Zealand a 5-0 lead inside the first four minutes.
Folau, who had been booed during the pre-game introductions after recently defending her husband Israel’s controversial religious beliefs, scored four from four to get the Silver Ferns off to a flying start.
After showing some nerves in front of goal, England recovered to haul back the deficit but still faced a big task as they trailed 12-9 at the end of the first. Nerves continued to be in evident for England who slipped six points behind
midway through the second quarter, Neville to make changes.
Neville switched the respective roles of Helen Housby and the misfiring Jo Harten, and introduced Natalie Haythornthwaite in place of Chelsea Pitman.
The move made a dramatic difference as Housby hauled England level before Harten belatedly rediscovered her form to shoot her team 24-21 in front with a quick-fire triple before the break.
England struggled to sustain their momentum, with the accuracy of Folau and Amelianne Ekenasio dragging New Zealand back level in a match which showed all the signs of going down to the wire.
Looking more composed, the Silver Ferns edged two points clear before a rare mistake by England captain Serna Guthrie enabled Ekenasio to stretch New Zealand’s lead to three.
After a quarter they will want to forget, England faced going into the final 15 minutes needing to make up a 36-33 deficit in order to keep their World Cup dream alive.
They fell further behind before a crucial interception from Harten helped haul the deficit back to two as the game moved deeper into the final quarter.
But the superbly-poised Ekenasio was showing no signs of the raucous home crowd getting to her as she continued her flawless scoring record to put New Zealand five points clear with seven minutes to go.
Despite again reeling in their opponents to a two-point gap heading into the final minute, New Zealand hung on for a 47-45 win which means England’s long wait for a place in a World Cup final goes on.