Commonwealth Games Pool A
England 5 Wales 0
England kept up their one hundred per cent record against rivals Wales at the Commonwealth Games and also won all four pool games for the first time at a Commonwealth Games tournament to earn a semi-final berth against Pool B runners-up, New Zealand on Friday evening (6 pm or 8.15 pm to be confirmed).
Wales finished fourth in Pool A and will face South Africa in the 7th/8th place classification match at 11.15 a.m. on Friday.
Leah Wilkinson captained Wales on her 200th combined appearance, winning her 179th Welsh cap, but England were just too good and clinical with their penalty corner routine.
England forced a penalty corner after just 20 seconds but both Anna Toman and Hollie Pearne-Webb saw their shots blocked. Amy Burton had a great chance to put Wales ahead in the seventh minute but the ball went over the bar to England’s relief. England’s discipline let them down slightly in the first quarter as both Laura Unsworth and Flora Peel were given two minute suspensions.
Grace Balsdon had a shot blocked from England’s second penalty corner and Hannah Martin tested Welsh goalkeeper Rose Thomas before the first fifteen minutes ended goalless.
Wales were unfortunate to fall behind in the 18th minute, conceding a penalty stroke after Beth Bingham was hit in the face whilst bravely blocking Ellie Rayer’s shot directly in front of goal. After Bingham received treatment, Balsdon duly dispatched the ball to the Thomas’s right to open the scoring.
Wales continued to defend, blocking Anna Toman’s shot from England’s third penalty corner and also denying Tess Howard. Giselle Ansley also saw a penalty corner shot blocked in the 22nd minute.
England goalkeeper, Maddie Hinch saved from Sophie Robinson two minutes later and after Lily Owsley had a shot saved by Thomas, Martin doubled the English lead, slipping the ball inside the right post to give the hosts a 2-0 half time lead.
Any hopes of a second half Welsh comeback were quickly dispelled as Balsdon clinically converted England’s fifth penalty corner in the 34th minute. Two minutes later, England didn’t really help themselves as Owsley saw yellow and spent the next five minutes on the naughty step. In spite of the one player advantage, Wales had to defend as Martin and Shona McCallin both had shots blocked and Ansley fired over the crossbar from England’s sixth penalty corner.
Both teams changed their goalkeepers at the start of the fourth quarter, Sabbie Heesh replacing Hinch and Ella Jackson coming on for Thomas. Ansley converted England’s seventh penalty corner in the 54th minute and after Wales lost their right to a video referral challenging the award of England’s eighth set-piece in the 58th minute, Balsdon completed her hat-trick from the ninth, immediately awarded after Balsdon’s shot was blocked from the eighth.
Wales conceded five goals for the second tournament running, having lost 5-1 on the Gold Coast in 2018.
England go into their semi-final looking to improve on their record against New Zealand. England won their first ever Commonwealth Games match against the Black Sticks in 1998, 1-0 but have not beaten them since, although they have won on penalty strokes or by shootout after a drawn knockout match.
The teams drew 2-2 in Manchester in 2002, before New Zealand ended England’s unbeaten pool record in Melbourne in 2006, with an emphatic 4-0 win, however England won the bronze medals after a goalless draw.
New Zealand were dominant in 2010 in Delhi, winning 4-1, but lost out in the 2014 semi-final in Glasgow after a 1-1 draw. It was New Zealand’s turn to reach the final in 2018 after a goalless draw in normal time.
New Zealand won the last meeting between the teams at the Women’s World Cup in Amstelveen, winning 3-1 in Pool B, Lily Owsley putting England ahead only for a brace from Katie Doar and a third goal from Tarryn Davey to clinch the win and ensure New Zealand won the pool.
Scorers: Grace Balsdon 18-PS, 34-PC, 58-PC; Hannah Martin 28-F, Giselle Ansley 54-PC.
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK); Laura Unsworth, Anna Toman, Hannah Martin, Ellie Rayer, Izzy Petter, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Lily Owsley, Flora Peel.
Subs: Grace Balsdon (3 mins), Holly Hunt (4), Lily Walker (4), Tess Howard (4), Sophie Hamilton (5), Shona McCallin (5), Sabbie Heesh (GK) (46).
Cards: Green: Laura Unsworth (4 mins), Flora Peel (13 mins). Yellow: Lily Owsley (36 mins).
Starters: Rose Thomas (GK); Sophie Robinson, Sian French, Sarah Jones, Eloise Laity, Beth Bingham, Leah Wilkinson (Capt.), Isabelle Howell, Xenna Hughes, Hannah Cozens, Jo Westwood.
Subs: Isobel Webb (5 mins), Olivia Hoskins (6), Amy Burton (6), Millie Holme (7), Holly Munro (8), Ella Jackson (GK) (46).
Sub not used: Rebecca Daniel
Umpires: Binish Hayat (Pakistan) and Wanri Venter (South Africa)