England beat Jamaica in Commonwealth Games semi-final

Jo Harten’s dramatic last-second winner booked England a place in their first Commonwealth Games gold medal match with 56-55 semi-final victory over Jamaica.

A thrilling semi-final at the Coomera Indoor Sports Centre saw Tracey Neville’s team trail for most of the contest until a dramatic final 15 minutes when they seized the advantage for the first time since the second quarter.

With time ebbing away, it was Roses ball for the final 15 seconds and the chance looked to have gone when Helen Housby’s effort bounced out, but Chelsea Pitman and Housby combined to feed Jo Harten, who held her nerve to sink the winning point.

The dramatic finale had both teams in tears but victory means England have guaranteed at least a silver medal and end their run of semi-final defeats at the Games, having lost in the last four of all five renewals of the competition.

They will face either Australia or New Zealand in Sunday’s final – the Antipodean rivals battle in the second semi-final, a repeat of all five previous gold medal matches.

The teams ranked third and fourth in the world met in the opening semi-final of the tournament, with each chasing a first final appearance having never gone further than the bronze medal contest.

A nervy opening quarter saw the two sides feeling their way into the match, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid setting an early tone for Jamaica to pick up the first couple of goals while Housby and Harten helped England recover to forge a 7-3 advantage.

Bronze medalists in 2014 when they beat England in Glasgow, Jamaica stepped on the gas and their opponents had no answer to the formidable Fowler-Reid, who was making no mistake under the post.

Natalie Haythornthwaite, Jodie Gibson and 149-cap Jade Clarke were all introduced as England look to halt their errors but an inspired Jamaica ploughed on, capitalising on turnover ball to lead by six goals at half-time.

Trailing 33-27, England brought on Eboni Beckford-Chambers and began to chip away at their opponents’ lead, Haythornthwaite reducing the deficit to two before Jamaica pushed on again to establish a four-goal advantage heading into the final 15 minutes.

Inspired by their need to play catch-up, England continued to close the gap, first to two and then one before finally levelling the contest once again through Housby who struck again to give England the lead

A spellbinding contest had its finale with the final five minutes ebbing both ways. But just as England refused to buckle so did Jamaica and the pair continued to trade blows, the Sunshine Girls fighting back to level at 54-54 with 90 seconds remaining.

Predictably there was time for the two to trade blows one more time before Harten held her nerve to seal England’s historic moment and record their sixth and most dramatic win of the competition.

Next up will be Australia or New Zealand as England bid to continue the progress made under Neville – they won gold at the Fast5 World Series before Christmas but Sunday represents their first major world level final since the 1975 World Cup when they were beaten by the Aussies.

Earlier in the week, the classification matches ended with wins for Scotland and Wales but Northern Ireland lost their seventh-placed match to Malawi.

Wales avoided the wooden spoon with an 81-32 win over Fiji while Scotland matched their ninth-placed finish in Glasgow by beating Barbados in an overtime thriller.

2018 Commonwealth Games – Classification matches Fifth Place Match South Africa 53-42 Uganda Seventh Place Match Malawi 60-52 Northern Ireland Ninth Place Match Scotland 50-48 Barbados (OT) 11th Place Match Wales 81-32 Fiji

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