An extraordinary performance saw England’s netballers crowned Commonwealth Games champions with a 52-51 win over hosts Australia.
The jubilant scenes which followed England’s semi-final win over Jamaica were repeated and exceeded as Helen Housby netted in the final second for Tracey Neville’s side to win the most astonishing of contests.
Jo Harten’s last-gasp goal in Saturday’s defeat of Jamaica sent the Roses into a first global final since 1975, after last-four appearances at all previous five Commonwealth Games.
That final 43 years ago ended in defeat to Australia, but the Roses were determined not to settle for silver and delivered the gold.
“We have worked so hard over the last international phase, we’ve been put in here against the world number ones and we’ve not beaten them once in the whole cycle that I’ve been in. I’m just so really, really proud.
“I think, for us, we’ve just been trying to get consistent and to consistently beat these teams. We’ve been showing charisma during the international calendar but this feeling is just amazing.”
Three Commonwealth bronze medals were England’s best performance until now, while Australia have won three times and been runners-up to trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand twice.
This was one Ashes battle which, unlike the cricket, was close.
This England squad – featuring five players plying their trade in Suncorp Super Netball – refused to be cowed by their more vaunted opponents, opening up a three-point lead at one stage in the first quarter.
The fierce intensity continued in the second quarter as the teams exchanged blows, with England edging the scoring to level at 25-25 at half-time.
It was feisty too. Laura Geitz and Harten battled for territory and the English goal shooter kept finding the net as England twice opened up a three-point lead, only to see it swiftly vanish each time.
Steph Wood scored with the final throw of the third quarter to give Australia a 38-36 lead and the hosts extended that to four goals early in the fourth quarter.
Harten and Housby scored in quick succession to put England ahead for the first time in the fourth quarter with little more than four minutes remaining.
Goals were exchanged before England claimed a vital rebound late on and it looked like it was heading for an extra period when Harten missed.
But Housby claimed the rebound and drained the shot at the second attempt – after a foul – to spark scenes of ecstasy.