Scotland suffered a comprehensive defeat against hosts England in the Netball World Cup, going down 70-34 in the Group D clash in Liverpool.
The Scots, coached by Gail Parata, had begun the tournament in impressive fashion, defeating Samoa 53-35 on Friday evening.
But the match against England was always likely to be a much tougher proposition and so it proved in front of a sold-out crowd at the M&S Bank Arena.
Ninth-ranked Scotland went with an unchanged side but they struggled to contain the Commonwealth Games champions. They will now look to get back on track against Uganda in a tough final group match this evening.
Scotland’s Emily Nicholl said: “I think it was a tough game but it’s a really good test for us ahead of Uganda. Tough, but we’re proud of what we put out there. We set targets before the match and we feel that we hit most of them, so we’re on track and we’re looking forward to the rest of the competition now.”
England’s victory came at a price, however, with the news that influential defender Layla Guscoth has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament because of a ruptured Achilles.
The Adelaide Thunder player limped off with the injury midway through the first quarter and was immediately sent to the team hotel for treatment. England coach Tracey Neville was initially optimistic given that Guscoth had been able to walk off the court, but several hours after the match the news broke that the injury was considerably more serious than had been hoped.
Guscoth’s absence is sure to be a blow for Neville, who relished the opportunity to rotate her squad after the opening win over Uganda, with top scorer Jo Harten rested for all but the final moments of the contest. Harten’s replacement Rachel Dunn seized her chance with 49 goals in 52 attempts as the Scots struggled to keep pace.
The different priorities of both teams were made plain by memories of the last time they met, when England’s 74-28 triumph on the Gold Coast set them off on their dramatic gold medal journey.
For the Scots, a stronger performance and a reduced margin of defeat compared to that meeting in Australia last year was the realistic target as they prepare for the all important placement rounds, from which a top- eight finish is the target.
However, any Scottish hopes that their opponents might be too focused on the bigger picture were dashed in an almost faultless opening quarter by England – Guscoth’s departure apart – in which both Dunn and Helen Housby scored 100 per cent of goal attempts to establish an 18-9 lead.
Dunn maintained her superb percentage accuracy as England stretched the lead to 35-20 at half-time, with Lynsey Gallagher once again the Scottish star with ten goals as her team struggled to make much impression. England captain Serena Guthrie made her first appearance of the day for the start of the third quarter and her impact was immediately evident as her side scored 20 against their opponents’ six to stretch their lead to 55-26.
In front of another raucous crowd, England ultimately cruised over the line, although Dunn said she was unaware of the notable accomplishment of scoring from all of her first 21 shots on target.
England are expected to dispose of Samoa without too much difficulty in their final group game today. Scotland, by contrast, face an intriguing and far trickier test against world No 6-ranked Uganda, who beat the Samoans 69-48 on Court Two.