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Women's Netball England all but guarantee qualifying while potentially eliminating early favourites Jamaica

ENGLAND took a giant stride towards the Netball World Cup semi-finals after a tight 56-48 win over title rivals Jamaica in Liverpool.

Victory in the first game of the second group phase puts Tracey Neville’s team in a strong position to reach the last four with games against Trinidad and South Africa to come.

And the win — fashioned by a dominant performance at centre from captain Serena Guthrie — had the added bonus of effectively eliminating the Jamaicans, one of the pre-tournament favourites.

Jamaica, who had pushed England to within a single point at last year’s Commonwealth Games semi-finals, must now rely on other results in order to progress after their previous defeat to South Africa.

Neville often cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as her side squandered a number of opportunities to pull away, but there was no doubting her relief at the end of the game.

She said: “We were following the game plan and we were having little moments when we kept letting Jamaica back in the game.

“We knew Jamaica were coming for this win so we knew it was going to be one of the toughest games of the round.”

Neville, who kept faith in her seven starters throughout the match with Helen Housby top-scoring on 34, reserved particular praise for Guthrie’s performance in the middle.

“If you talk about needing a leader, we really needed a leader today,” added Neville. “She gave us intercepts when we wanted and she drove down the court and you couldn’t be more happy than that.”

England edged the first quarter by two goals and were forced to maintain that advantage at the half-time break, but a much stronger third quarter — which they won by six — proved decisive.

Wins in their final two games of the round Wednesday and Thursday will guarantee England a semi-final place, most likely against New Zealand.

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