Team Bath Netball stars help England and Wales top groups at World Cup
Team Bath Netballers Stacey Francis and Kyra Jones will meet in the ‘first eight’ phase of the Netball World Cup after England and Wales both topped their preliminary round pools with 100 per cent records.
Both countries go into Pool F in Sydney, where they will be joined by South Africa and host nation Australia.
England thought they had avoided a meeting with Australia after winning Pool B, only for the defending champions to suffer a surprise defeat to New Zealand and finish runners-up in Pool A.
Following their 60-19 win over a Scotland side featuring Team Bath’s Claire Brownie in their opening match, England fought out a tense 54-50 victory over Jamaica at an emotionally-charged Allphones Arena on Saturday.
The match was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of Neville Neville, the father of England head coach Tracey Neville who had passed away 24 hours earlier.
Jamaica held a 28-23 advantage at half-time but a switch to GB for former Team Bath player Eboni Beckford-Chambers helped England turn things around against the team which beat them to bronze at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
With top spot practically secured, Neville took the chance to freshen her team up for Sunday’s final Pool B match against Samoa.
Team Bath defender Francis started at wing-defence and displayed her athletic ability with several fierce drives in the mid-court as England raced into a 43-10 half-time lead.
The team was changed again for the third quarter, with only Sara Bayman retaining her place on court, and England struggled to find their rhythm.
However, they stepped up again in the final quarter to record an 85-34 victory and set themselves up for their meeting with Australia on Tuesday (11.20am BST).
Wales, with Team Bath Netball centre Jones playing a key role, also won all three of their preliminary round matches in Pool D.
They followed up Friday’s 59-52 win over Fiji with a 71-44 success against Zambia before making sure of top spot with a gutsy 49-47 victory over Uganda on Monday.
Wales trailed 39-35 going into the final quarter but flawless shooting from Chelsea Lewis and Emma Thomas saw them turn the game around.
They will now face South Africa on Tuesday (3.20am) and Australia on Wednesday (11.20am) before completing their ‘first eight’ Pool F matches against England.
Scotland, with Brownie as vice-captain, go into the ‘second eight’ phase after finishing third in Pool B.
They beat Samoa 47-36 on Saturday before losing 71-24 to Jamaica on Monday.
Scotland’s opponents in Pool H are Barbados, Sri Lanka and Fiji.
(Top) Stacey Francis looks on as former Team Bath netballer Sara Bayman feeds the ball into the England shooting circle against Samoa. PICTURE: Press Association