The England Roses fell narrowly short against the Australian Diamonds, despite a scintillating third quarter comeback, as they lost 50-46 at the Copper Box Arena tonight.
It was a game high on energy, passion and tenacity from the first whistle and the two undefeated sides in the Vitality Netball International Series, as part of the Netball Quad Series, went head to head.
A number of unconverted turnover opportunities in the first half threatened to see Australia race to a clear victory, but a stirring post half-time response had England, and an extremely vociferous crowd, sensing another Quad Series success.
The two sides went goal-for-goal early in the final fifteen minutes and with the clock ticking down it was the Diamonds who managed to control the tempo and stifle the home side to see out the win.
England opted to name the same starting seven which took to the court against New Zealand while the visitors made changes, Caitlin Bassett a notable starter following their Saturday victory over South Africa.
The Roses created several chances to take charge in the opening quarter with the defensive unit forcing several steals and tips.
However, each time possession was won, it was frustratingly lost almost as quickly. In contrast, the team in green and gold were ruthless with their chances and took a 16-11 lead.
An early change saw Beth Cobden take the WD bib and there was an immediate impact and England won back possession from an Australia centre-pass.
It failed to result in a goal, but the next time England won turnover ball, it finally proved fruitful. A roar from Serena Guthrie signalled the hosts’ delight and taking advantage.
With momentum still evading the home side, Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Natalie Haythornthwaite were introduced to the fray.
A nine goal deficit was reduced to seven before the half-time whistle with England keeping themselves in the game.
Mentor and Beckford-Chambers were fired up after the interval which quickly had the crowd notching up the noise levels even further.
A show of ill-discipline from the World Champions afforded the Roses the chance to close this gap, and this time they delivered.
A run of five straight goals had the fans daring to believe. Slick work around the circle was rewarded as the shooting accuracy started to increase.
England were down 37-34 at the end of the third quarter, but definitely not out.
The atmosphere was electric as the teams entered the court for the final fifteen minutes and it wasn’t long before the partisan nature of the crowd saw them playfully booing any umpiring decision against the hosts.
With the match remaining on centre-pass with under ten minutes on the clock, England needed to find a spark.
It was provided with an exceptional retrieval from behind the back line from the newly introduced Eleanor Cardwell. Waiting for the pass was Helen Housby and she netted to keep the game in the balance.
Each pass, leap and shot now had immense pressure attached to it as any error would prove costly to either side.
The tension finally told as a pass in the mid-court was fired wide by the Roses and the Diamonds finished the turnover in a move which oozed composure.
Despite a late converted turnover of their own, England were unable to force additional time as Australia ran down the clock.
The teams now head over to South Africa to complete this edition of the Netball Quad Series with the Roses’ last fixture coming up on Sunday afternoon against the host nation.
Roses starting 7: GS – Corbin, GA – Housby, WA – Pitman, C – Guthrie, WD – Clarke, GD – Agbeze, GK – Mentor
Diamonds starting 7: GS – Bassett, GA – Wood, WA – Watson, C – Ravaillion, WD – Simpson, GD – Weston, GK – Bruce
Umpires: Jono Bredin and Theresa Prince with Terrence Peart as reserve