Record Bath crowd cheers England netballers to thrilling - and historic - victory
A record crowd at the University of Bath saw history in the making last night as England's netballers beat Australia - for only the third time.
The 58-53 success at a sold-out Sports Training Village was a rare victory over the 11-times World Netball Champions since the two teams first met in 1956.
A delighted England and Team Bath stalwart Stacey Francis said: "We were very confident before the game. We had a good feeling about it and Bath is not a place that we are used to losing in."
Indeed Team Bath's reputation as a developer of significant netball talent was enhanced as six of the seven starters for last night's game had come through the ranks at the university.
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Captain Pamela Cookey led a starting line-up which included Ama Agbeze, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Serena Guthrie, Sara Bayman and Sasha Corbin, leaving goal-shooter Joe Harten as the only England player without a Team Bath connection.
England coach Anna Mayes - also formerly of Team Bath - reaped the dividend of her selections as the hosts created a number of turn-over triumphs to go 17-12 ahead in the first quarter.
They stuttered momentarily in the second quarter, allowing Australia to level at 22-22, before England put on an 11-goal blitz without reply to lead 33-22 at half-time.
Australia scored heavily in quarter three to cut England’s lead to 43-39 but Mayes brought on current Team Bath player Francis for the injured Agbeze to consolidate.
A tenacious visiting team closed the gap to 47-45 with ten minutes remaining but England kept their composure to stretch their lead to 55-48 with four minutes left.
The lead was again cut to 56-51but some stunning attacking play saw England close out the result 58-53 and the sell-out crowd in Bath leapt to their feet to give the hosts a standing ovation.
For Francis, the result and court-time were a big bonus. "I had such a shocker of a year last year with injuries, so it was not only good to win but good to get some court-time today.
"It was a personal stepping stone. I was nervous but now feel much better going into the next match."
England conclude their three-match series against Australia at the Wembley Arena on Wednesday and Birmingham NIA on Saturday.