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Tracey Neville signs off as England netball coach as Roses beat South Africa for World Cup bronze medal

Fiona Tomas
England players celebrate beating South Africa to win the bronze medal - AP

England 58 - 42 South Africa 

Tracey Neville hopes England Netball can draw on the wealth of home-grown coaching talent when appointing her successor after watching her side end their World Cup Liverpudlian tale with a bronze medal against South Africa. 

When she guided England to a World Cup bronze at the 2015 edition of the tournament in Sydney, Neville was only an interim manager of the national side but in her final game at the helm before stepping away from the sport to start a family, she has now repeated that unwanted feat four years on.  England Netball have not publicly confirmed when Neville’s successor will be appointed.

“I actually have no idea who’ll it be,” said a teary Neville after the game. “I look at what we have in England, where we have some absolutely instrumental coaches in Tamsin Greenway, Karen Atkinson, Olivia Murphy, Karen Greig, Mel Mansfield - there’s some phenomenal coaches. 

“For me, the English coaches breathe the culture, they know the history, they know how to take a team forward. Hopefully we can appoint an English coach.”

Less than 24 hours after watching their tournament hopes dashed against New Zealand, England dusted themselves off for an unsolicited third-place play off against the same side they ruthlessly dispatched days ago. Once again, their narrative in this tournament is buffed with bronze, not glittering in gold. 

After a nervy opening quarter, England recovered their spark Credit: PA

“You can’t take it [a bronze medal] away from a gold, but in the past we’ve been unsure about that bronze medal,” added Neville. “Today, we made certain it was ours. To come back and perform like we did today was a true credit to the team, the culture that actually we can get up and go again.”

After a nervy opening quarter, they recovered the spark that had been snuffed out by the Silver Ferns to find their rhythm, mustering every last drop of energy to give a sell-out M&S Bank Arena something to cheer about. This was England’s eighth successive time contesting a World Cup semi-final, but the deluge of positive statements and smattering of St Georges cross emojis posted by Tracey Neville’s squad on social media in the wake of their agonising semi-final defeat outlined their steely determination to finish on the podium in Liverpool. 

“I’m really proud of the way the group managed the feelings,” said goal shooter Jo Harten. “After the New Zealand game, we got straight onto it in the changing rooms before we even left the building. We tried to right the wrongs from the game, but we also stayed together.

“Sometimes in those scenarios you go a bit isolated and cold-hearted, but we stayed connected last night played a few fun games, did some homework on South Africa and it showed out on the court.” 

Neville remained tight-lipped over who will succeed her at the helm Credit: REUTERS

By the third quarter, England stretched their lead by 14 goals as Serena Guthrie tirelessly rallied her players, feeding the deftest of her trademark rugby-esque passes into the centre-circle. That the England captain was taken off to a raucous cheer three minutes from time suggested Neville eyed the importance of this match just as much as her players did. A minute from time, the outgoing head coach succumbed to the deafening chants of ‘We want Dunn!’ to throw on the veteran - and bashful shooter - of Rachel Dunn, who at 36, could be one of a handful of English players set to retire after the tournament. 

“I said to them before this tournament, I won’t hear of anyone retiring, even though I did myself,” quipped Neville. 

“A lot of these players need to take a break. We might have to take a few hits along the way, but when we did that four years ago we saw the stars of Nat Haythornthwaite, Beth Cobden, Jodie Gibson and Helen Housby start to flourish within the programme. 

“There’s a highly talented group of Roses coming through the programme in September who I know will be here to take the places of these guys and it’s a really exciting programme going forward.” 

Aside from the bronze, this was a match where England handed over the baton to South Africa, who will stage the next World Cup in Cape Town in 2023. The Roses’ journey in Liverpool is a precedent which the future hosts will not want to follow after bowing once again to netball’s Trans-Tasman hegemony. 

4:05PM

The squad gather behind Neville

Tracey Neville Credit: BBC

"I do want to come back, I want to be part of this squad no matter what."

3:55PM

Full time: England 58 South Africa 42

A professional performance and a comprehensive win. Differing feelings for the teams today by all accounts: England gutted not to be in the final, the South Africans perhaps more proud to have made it to the final four. As it is, England were better in all departments and are worthy winners on the day.

Helen Housby of England shoots Credit: Emma Simpson/Getty Images

BBC pundit Sasha Corbin is overcome with emotion: "we work so hard, it means so much," she says.

BBC pundit Sasha Corbin Credit: BBC2

Well done to both sides. Please join us for the final in a few minutes, when Australia take on New Zealand.

"To lose three quarters in the whole tournament and not get to the final has been brutal" Credit: BBC

3:53PM

59 mins: ENG 58 RSA 42

Nice crowd pleasing move from Tracey Neville as she gives Rachel Dunn the last minute of the game time.

The crowd want Dunn to win, but once Housby gets the ball in that circle she has only one thought on her mind. Chalks up another one, and that's the last action of the game. England win! 

3:50PM

58 mins: ENG 57 RSA 40

Serena Guthrie leaves the court, to wild applause and a warm huge from Coach Neville. Guthrie has been a fine leader and a fine person.

3:47PM

55 mins: ENG 53 RSA 37

England are wrapping this up with plenty to spare. Neville will end her tenure with a bronze medal, one better than brother Phil.

3:43PM

50 mins: ENG 49 RSA 36

Housby makes it 25/25.

Guthrie makes contact with Burger and the whistle goes. South Africa with some ball, and they make it count.

3:40PM

48 mins: ENG 48 RSA 34

England keep the gap comfortable as Housby nails another, this one after a foul. 

3:38PM

Fourth quarter underway

Hard to see any way back for the South African side, but here goes.

3:34PM

End of third quarter: ENG 46 RSA 32

England with 55% of the ball, they put their foot on the gas on that third quarter and with 22/22 shots Housby is ensuring that England are making it count. 12 turnovers given up by the South Africans. 17 plays 10 in that third quarter tells the story.

3:31PM

43 mins: ENG 43 RSA 31

Great work from Housby as she makes space and shoots successfully. "Come on!" she roars. Good professional job from this England side, giving their fans plenty to cheer about on what must have felt like a bit of a flat day. They could not be doing more.

3:27PM

40 mins: ENG 36 RSA 28

South Africa tiring, this is slipping away from them.  Jo Harten is given far too much time and space to measure out a shot from four or five yards.

3:24PM

37 mins: ENG 36 RSA 25

Geva Mentor brilliant there as she denies a shooting opportunity.

3:19PM

33 mins: ENG 32 RSA 23

Helen Housby and Jo Harten pick up where they left off and England are starting to boss this.

Good defensive pressure forces Maryka Holtzhausen into a risky, and unsuccessful, shot.

3:17PM

Third quarter about to start

and it is England who have first use of the ball.  Van Der Merwe on for South Africa, England unchanged.

3:06PM

Half time: ENG 29 RSA 22

The crowd count us down and South Africa have a chance to trim the lead, but miss a late long goal attempt and that has been firmly England's quarter.

A frantic, messy first quarter from both sides but England were able to make their class tell in the second quarter, which they won 15-10. We've already seen in this tournament that South Africa have a comeback in them, but the money would be firmly on England at this stage.

3:01PM

26 mins: ENG 25 RSA 18

Housby draws the foul from Maweni, and makes no mistake from point blank range as England open up a seven-point lead.

2:59PM

25 mins: ENG 24 RSA 18

Serena Guthrie reads it well, spotting Erin Burger's attempted bass and snaffling it. 

Guthrie looks to be holding her left shoulder, not sure if she has had a knock.

2:56PM

23 mins: ENG 21 RSA 16

Housby has her tenth shot - and nails her tenth goal. 

2:54PM

20 mins: ENG 20 RSA 15

Harten fakes, Housby with some good movement and England are looking a classy outfit at the moment as they open up a five-goal advantage. 

2:53PM

18 mins: ENG 18 RSA 14

England goal attack Jo Harten with an assured shot from distance.

2:52PM

Second quarter underway

and with the crowd behind them, England are starting to look the more dominant side here.

2:48PM

End of first quarter: ENG 14 RSA 12 

Bit of poor decision making from South Africa as they pass laterally with just a second or two on the clock, they have to launch it long and the whistle curtails it.

Both teams giving their best, both teams look a little bit leggy after a long tournament. Guthrie and Burger having a tussle. It's the match neither side wanted to play but there we are.

England players huddle at the start of their match against South Africa Credit: PA Wire

2:45PM

14 mins: ENG 13 RSA 12

Maweni cuts it out again, denying Housby, and this time can get it forward. A good little spell this from South Africa as they trim England's lead

2:41PM

11 mins: ENG 11 RSA 7 

Maweni reads the game well to cut out a long crossfield pass but cannot cling onto the ball after the interception. The game played at a high tempo, and England are starting to dominate.

2:37PM

8 mins: ENG 6 RSA 6

Haythornthwaite with a lovely bit of vision and a long pass.

2:36PM

6 mins: ENG 4 RSA 4 

After an early miss, Jo Harten finding her skills and England are back on level terms, while her defensive colleagues are making South Africa toil to find spaces and passes.

2:34PM

4 mins: ENG 2 RSA 2 

Housby has her second shot, and her second goal as England start to get themselves into the swing of things.

2:32PM

3 mins: ENG 1 RSA 2

South Africa went 2-0 up but England have got on the board.

2:31PM

1 mins: ENG 0 RSA 1

South Africa with an easy early goal but early warning signs for England when they lose the ball on their first possession. Tracey Neville pre-match was lamenting the amount of turnovers her side gave away in the crucial semi, and that has not been fixed just yet it would seem.

2:30PM

Right then

Centre-pass time, it is South Africa to get us underway.

2:26PM

South Africa also make one change

Khanyisa Chawane is the only switch for South Africa to the side who lost their semi-final. Chawane starts at WD in place of Shadine van der Merwe.

South Africa: GS Lenize Potgieter, GA Maryka Holtzhausen, WA Bongi Msomi, C Erin Burger, WD Khanyisa Chawane, GD Karla Pretorius, GK Phumza Maweni.

2:14PM

England make one change

Tracey Neville has made one change to the seven who started yesterday's semi-final. Nat Haythornthwaite starts in place of Chelsea Pitman at WA.

Haythornthwaite made a big impact when she came on towards the second quarter yesterday and has done enough to secure a starting berth.

Helen Housby and Jo Harten, meanwhile switch places, with Housby at GS and Harten at GA.

England: GS Helen Housby, GA Jo Harten, WA Nat Haythornthwaite, C Serena Guthrie, WD Jade Clarke, GD Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK Geva Mentor.

England will take on South Africa for a bronze medal at the Netball World Cup Credit: Getty Images

2:09PM

Still hurting

 

1:58PM

Can England end on a high note?

Less than 24 hours after a heartbreaking World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand, England regroup for this afternoon's bronze-medal match against South Africa.

New Zealand crushed England's hopes of reaching today's final in Liverpool with a 47-45 victory. Kiwis attacker Maria Folau was a constant thorn in England's side.

It was a bitter disappointment for England coach Tracey Neville, whose twin brother Phil suffered a similar fate as coach of the England women's football team at the World Cup in France. 

"I think New Zealand came out really strong and we didn't learn our lessons quick enough and we ended up chasing the game which we have not done all tournament," a deflated Neville said.

"But that was a class performance by New Zealand. We made some basic errors. They did a great job on us."

South Africa, meanwhile, lost their semi-final to Australia 55-53.

Australia nearly paid the price for resting four key players but they are now on track to win a 12th crown from 15 editions of the tournament since 1963.

Australia will take on New Zealand in the final later at 4.45pm following England's clash with South Africa.

Neville's side thrashed South Africa 58-47 in their final group match on Thursday and will hope for a repeat of that performance this afternoon.