Netball: Silver Ferns' title defence ends with defeat to England in World Cup semi-finals

New Zealand have lost their grip on the netball world crown, falling to a 46-40 defeat to England in the World Cup semi-finals at Cape Town.

Despite missing just one attempt on goal and actually outshooting their rivals throughout, the Silver Ferns struggled to provide enough ball into their attack circle, as the English defence suffocated their progress upcourt.

"We had moments when we were really good and we were really in it," reflected captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio. "Unfortunately, we let it slip in the last quarter and that's been the story so far for us.

Phoenix Karaka contests the ball against England.
Phoenix Karaka contests the ball against England. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I thought the girls stood up, but we had a few crucial errors at the end, which we could have capitalised on. I'm really gutted."

The Ferns suffered a major blow to their title defence, when star shooter Grace Nweke suffered a knee injury in an inconsequential pool match against Singapore, and her presence under goal was undoubtedly missed.

While the NZ shooters were accurate, they perhaps couldn't provide as big a target as the towering Nweke for their midcourt feeders, as England put up 54 attempts to the Ferns' 41.

Coach Dame Noeline Taurua made just one change over the four quarters, bringing on defender Jane Watson in the dying moments, but by then, they trailled by three goals and could not claw them back.

Both teams enjoyed periods of dominance, with New Zealand leading by three goals during a lowscoring opening quarter and edging ahead again late in the third period, but more often, they seemed to be playing catch-up.

The contest was evenly poised midway through the final quarter, but swung, when England defender Francesca Williams pounced on a pass from NZ counterpart Phoenix Karara.

Leading by a goal at the time, England extended their lead off the intercept and again from their own centrepass, and the Ferns never scored again, as their rivals closed with the final six goals. 

New Zealand now face a playoff for third against the losers of the other semi-final between Australia and Jamaica.

England 46 (Cardwell 25/31, Housby 21/23) NZ 40 (Wilson 25/25, Ekenasio 15/16)

Join Newshub at 2am Monday for live updates of the Silver Ferns' World Cup bronze-medal playoff