Maddie Hinch hailed England’s resilience as they staved off an Ireland comeback to win 3-2 in the Hockey World League.
Sarah Haycroft and Shona McCallin helped England race into a 2-0 half-time lead before Ireland produced a stunning comeback at the start of the second half in Johannesburg.
With the game evenly poised England were able to find a winner thanks to Alex Danson’s 102nd international goal just before the final quarter meaning they will finish top of Pool A.
Rock solid defending from Anna Toman and Hollie Webb staved off late pressure from Ireland’s attack to secure all three points.
And goalkeeper Hinch was full of praise for her side’s character to book a place in the quarter finals.
The Olympic gold medallist said: “The Irish put in a pretty strong performance from the get go in that second half and we were on the back foot, we gave them a couple of opportunities which allowed them to get back into the game, which was frustrating.
"But we didn’t panic and we knew the next goal would be crucial which we then found.
“That’s a real strength of this group, there’s not much this team hasn’t been through in the past – they shook us a little bit but we knew we were capable of getting that third goal and that’s what we did.”
England’s assistant coach David Ralph also paid homage to his side as they dug deep in the final 15 minutes to thwart the Ireland onslaught.
He said: “It was a hell of a game and it’s nice to get the three points. I thought Ireland played pretty well and we could’ve done a few things better but they gave us a real good game and we had to dig in deep.
"We’re quite resilient, we’ve got a good group of athletes in the group and I thought we dug in hard to get the result, it’s just rewards for that.”