Milestone 50th cap for Stacey Francis
Team Bath Netball’s Stacey Francis had double cause for celebration over the weekend as she won her 50th international cap and helped England reclaim the Netball Europe Open trophy.
Club colleague Sam Cook also played a key role as England completed their warm-up for this summer’s Netball World Cup with convincing victories over Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Team Bath's Claire Brownie and Kyra Jones represented Scotland and Wales respectively, with the latter finishing runner-up to England's Pamela Cookey in the player of the tournament vote.
Cook started Friday’s 60-16 win over Brownie's Scotland, who restricted England to just a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, the introduction of former Team Bath players Cookey and Tamsin Greenway saw England really step up a gear and they surged ahead, with young defenders Cook and Layla Guscoth restricting Scotland to just one goal in the third quarter.
Francis made her 50th international appearance in the following match against Wales and was in fine form, producing some wonderful intercepts as England established a 35-19 lead at half-time.
Cook was then introduced into the action, resuming her club defensive partnership with Francis, as England saw out a 69-32 victory.
That set up a winner-takes-all showdown with defending champions Northern Ireland, who held a surprise 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, the introduction of Francis helped England take control with 14 unanswered points and they went on to wrap up a stylish 64-22 victory.
Francis was delighted with the victory, and her milestone achievement, but said there was much more to come.
“I don't often stop and take time to reflect on where I have come from and the hard work that has gone in to achieving what I have so far but 50 caps for my country seems like the perfect opportunity to do just that,” she said.
“I love playing for my country and I endeavour to be better and better for my team with each opportunity that I am given.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this international window and having the opportunity to reach 50+ caps, support fellow Team Bath team-mates and come back from some injury struggles.”
Wales and Scotland finished third and fourth respectively in the final table.
England had started their week on Thursday with victories against the two invited nations, Trinidad & Tobago and South Africa.
Cook and Guscoth formed a youthful defensive partnership in the first match as England recorded a 63-42 success – their fourth win in eight days against the Caribbean side.
Francis came on for the second half of that match, adding some intensity when it was needed, and was then in the starting seven for the impressive 69-33 victory over a South Africa side ranked number six in the world.