England open up with World Cup triumph

Sixteen months after their dramatic win over Australia sent the profile of English netball soaring to new heights, Tracey Neville’s squad made a winning start to their World Cup campaign at a packed Liverpool Arena.

England's Chelsea Pitman during the Netball World Cup.

England’s 64-32 group stage win over Uganda was business-like and wholly expected but the sense of occasion in which it was played out illustrated the enormous strides made by the sport since Commonwealth Games gold.

A sell-out crowd in the home side of the two-court arena, with a vocal group of Ugandan supporters adding to the atmosphere, was testament to the surging interest in England’s bid to further dent Australia’s dominance of the sport.

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Amid such an unusually raucous atmosphere, Helen Housby deserved credit for being accurate with all but one of her 19 shots before she was replaced by Rachel Dunn during the third quarter.

Goal attack Joanne Harten top-scored with 29 for a victory built on the tireless central presence of Serena Guthrie.

England can expect even more convincing wins over the weekend against Scotland and Samoa, which serve as virtual warm-up matches before they must step up to challenge the tournament dominance from Down Under.

Only then will the pressures of England’s hard-won profile begin to bite, but there were few signs of nerves against a Ugandan team, led by the impressive Peace Proscovia, who are far from considered tournament also-rans.

Proscovia’s interruptions held England back early on before their power in the centre began to tell and they turned a 15-6 lead at the end of the first quarter into a relatively emphatic 31-18 advantage at half-time.

The lead extended to 44-26 at the end of the third, and with Neville, perhaps mindful of those sterner tests that await, resting her tireless captain Guthrie, England ultimately eased over the line.

Tournament avourites Australia made an early statement as they began the competition by sweeping aside Northern Ireland 88-24 in their opening group stage game.

New Zealand were less emphatic 64-45 victors over Malawi, while Jamaica, many experts’ tip to reach the final, outclassed Fiji 85-29.