The Vitality Roses clinched the Jean Hornsby Cup on Friday with a 67-44 win over the international Vitality Netball Superleague All Stars.
There’s one match remaining in the Vitality Netball Legends Series but victory in the second test saw England establish an unassailable 2-0 lead.
Facing a newly constructed team with only a few days of experience training together, the Roses were always expected to deliver the trophy.
However, with such a disrupted schedule in 2020, it was vital that the squad secured some much-needed court time and that Head Coach Jess Thirlby was able to assess her options.
And she witnessed a better performance in the second game and will be looking for further improvement in her side’s final outing on Sunday.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the key areas that could be interesting to observe in the closing match of the Vitality Netball Legends Series.
Rotation in the shooting circle
George Fisher was giving the starting bib at goal shooter in the first game, while Eleanor Cardwell was rewarded for her stellar display off the bench in that contest with a start in the second. Both impressed in different ways supported by Helen Housby before Jess Thirlby made the interesting decision to deploy Helen alongside fellow goal attack Sophie Drakeford-Lewis in the circle.
“It might look random to other people but there are a couple of things for me that I really wanted to try and expose and why not look at a Helen and Sophie combination,” Jess told The Netball Show.
“I think Elle (Eleanor) and G (George) have had a lot of opportunities over this last year and I think both of them have performed really well at times. I think in those first three quarters, what I wanted to check is what else can we do in the circle against a kind of off-marking defence and tactically there’s a way you can outplay that with a rotation circle.”
Producing the most dominant quarter on the scoreboard in the series so far, it’s a tactic which proved effective on the night.
After a quietly excellent performance in the opening game, Natalie Haythornthwaite was deservedly Player-of-the-Match in the second as she lit up the court with a litany of magnificent feeds into the circle.
Connecting effortlessly with her counterparts in mid-court, she’d then roll off into the attacking end to find her New South Wales Swifts teammate Helen Housby waiting gleefully to accept her passes. The co-captain demonstrated leadership as well as tremendous skill on court to inspire her side to a sharper offensive display.
“Yeah, absolutely we had real intent to start today’s game a lot better,” she explained.
“We looked at areas where we could improve things that we really wanted to work on especially in the attack end and hopefully we did that. It felt like we had a better intent in the attack end.”
teammate @Helenhousby1 🤝
— England Netball (at 🏡) (@EnglandNetball) January 22, 2021
Razia Quashie had been the standout player in the first game as she grappled with the All Stars and Manchester Thunder shooter Joyce Mvula to earn her Player-of-the-Match award. She started at goal keeper again with Fran Williams introduced to the starting seven at goal defence and the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup bronze medalist didn’t disappoint.
When the All Stars threatened to significantly reduce the deficit, Fran was alive to the danger to ensure England remained in a commanding position. She made two vital interceptions on separate occasions when the All Stars and got to within three goals on their own centre pass.
Fran would later slot in at goal keeper and similarly excelled on a good night for the 23-year-old.
Watch the third and final test on Sunday evening with coverage starting from 6.15pm on Sky Sports Arena and YouTube.
A huge thank you to everyone for making the Vitality Netball Legends Series happen and the continued support from all of our partners during these challenging times.