England’s women’s hockey team put on a performance fit for a future Queen, as they swept aside India 3-1 in front of the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex were also in attendance as the hosts battled through against a resilient India side in Birmingham.
The result secures England’s best-ever start to a Commonwealth Games with three wins from three, and captain Hollie Pearne-Webb admitted her excitement at having a royal audience.
“As soon as we arrived, we got told they were here so that was quite exciting,” said Pearne-Webb, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time , have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“Sophie is a patron of England Hockey so very pleased that she [Countess of Wessex] was here watching with her family.
“It’s always incredible when the royals are here watching.”
England were clearly not fazed by such grandiose visitors, making a perfect start as Giselle Ansley slammed home from a penalty corner after just three minutes.
But India fought back and dominated large parts of the first two quarters, with goalkeeper Maddie Hinch forced into action on several occasions.
“Today we had some defending to do which I think was a good thing for us – we haven’t had to do too much of that in the first two games,” added Pearne-Webb.
“That sets us up nicely for Wales on Thursday and hopefully further on in the tournament.
“It wasn’t as as we would have like it to have been, but we are always striving for perfection, so we go back and look at it.
“You can’t expect to play really good hockey against a team as good as India.”
It took India until the dying seconds to breach the England backline, the first goal the home side have conceded in Birmingham, but Derby-native Pearne-Webb believed her side had defended well throughout.
“We wanted to keep a clean sheet, it’s the first goal we’ve conceded this tournament,” said Pearne-Webb.
“Maddie was brilliant in goal, and we don’t want her to do much but it’s probably a good thing ahead of Wales.
“We had some corner defense today which I thought was superb as well.”
England were cheered on by a vocal crowd at the University of Birmingham, and Pearne-Webb admitted she still wasn’t used to playing in front of them.
“Every time you come out, third time now, it never gets boring,” she added. “You still get goosebumps when you see all the flags and hear the roar.
“I feel incredibly lucky that it’s been a home Games during my career.”
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