Netball champions England cruise to victory against Northern Ireland

England’s netball team steamrolled Northern Ireland 71-27 to bank the third successive victory of their Commonwealth Games title defence on Monday.

A tweaked starting seven showed the coach Jess Thirlby’s intent to use the game to test combinations in a match always likely to go in the hosts’ favour against opponents eight places below them in the world rankings.

Though the recipe may have been different, the outcome was the same: demolition. The reigning champions wreaked havoc across the court, subjecting a spirited Northern Ireland to a 60-minute nightmare.

Collectively the Roses produced 12 gains, including five intercepts, and 19 deflections, all while keeping the total error count to just four. But their most impressive stat was keeping Northern Ireland’s scoring to within single digits in each quarter.

While the win may be a critical piece of England’s tournament puzzle, the opportunity to rest key players could prove equally important. With seven matches to play in 10 days the Commonwealth Games are notoriously brutal on the players’ bodies.

Jo Harten, who looks to be managing a niggle on her left knee, watched the game from the sideline while the captain, Natalie Metcalf, and goal keeper, Geva Mentor, were introduced in the final minutes of the third quarter.

“You have to be mindful in tournament conditions that you have to manage your squad,” Thirlby said after the game. “I think in previous big competitions England have relied on a small group of players, then they get to the tailend and it takes its toll. It doesn’t matter how much work you’ve done.

“It is always tough when you’re making changes but they were reassuring and we’re taking a lot of confidence from how we’re building performances. Hopefully, by managing the squad well today, we’ve got some energy left on the bench to come into the game tomorrow, which is just what we’ll need.”

England will face a tougher contest on Tuesday when they meet the world’s No 6 team, Uganda, at 6pm.