Sunshine Girls face New Zealand in final after holding off England in Nations Cup

The Jamaicans led all throughout the match to carve out a needed victory over perennial rivals England (Photo: Twitter @IntNetball)

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls withstood a final quarter onslaught from England to hold on for a 70-66 victory and book their spot in Sunday’s final of the Vitality Nations Cup against world champions New Zealand.

In a do-or-die final preliminary round match at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday, an inspired Jamaica led all quarters 18-15, 39-31 and 57-44, before holding their nerve down the stretch once the hosts, urged on by the sold-out partisan crowd, applied maximum pressure.

Jamaica head coach Connie Francis said afterwards, her side had suffered from carelessness and fatigue in the latter stages and allowed England back into the contest.

“I thought we got a little careless with the pass. I understand that fatigue had set in because our attackers became stagnant and we weren’t sticking to the game plan,” said Francis.

“We had decided in the initial stages of the game to go out there and dominate and take England out of the crowd because [the crowd is very vocal], and it was important for us to go out there and get a lead,” she added.

England head coach Jess Thirlby said they had come up against a highly motivated Jamaica unit.

“Jamaica love playing England and it seems to be a motivating factor for them,” she said in an interview.

“I’ve seen the good and bad [of the rivalry] and unfortunately we have faced Jamaica on the wrong day of the tournament.”

The victory was Jamaica’s second of the tournament following their opening win against South Africa last Sunday.

They will now face a New Zealand side who beat them on Wednesday, and who enter the final having played unbeaten in the preliminaries.

In their final group game on Saturday, the Silver Ferns found themselves down by seven at the half before rebounding to win 48-41.

England take on South Africa in the bronze medal game on Sunday.