Commonwealth Games champions Australia clinch the series with a second win against the Vitality Roses in front of a sold-out crowd in Sydney.
After a close first half with just four goals the difference at the break, the world number ones took an eight-goal advantage in a decisive third quarter to pull away and claim a series victory.
Australian Diamonds starting seven: Sarah Klau (GK), Jo Weston (GD), Amy Parmenter (WD), Jamie-Lee Price (C), Paige Hadley (WA), Kiera Austin (GA), Cara Koenen (GS)
Substitutes: Courtney Bruce, Sophie Dwyer, Sophie Garbin, Maddy Proud, Maddy Turner
Vitality Roses starting seven: Funmi Fadoju (GK), Fran Williams (GD), Laura Malcolm (WD), Jade Clarke (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Imogen Allison, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Layla Guscoth, Hannah Joseph, Geva Mentor
The Vitality Roses got the game underway in front of a packed crowd at the Qudos Bank Arena, with 15,000 in attendance, as Eleanor Cardwell scored the opening goal, picking up where she left off on Wednesday after an impressive first test where she scored 92% of her shots. Teammate Helen Housby showed strong support early on, getting on the ball regularly in the first few minutes and converting under the post. Down the other end, the new attacking partnership of Keira Austin and Cara Koenen proved effective for the hosts as the Diamonds fed high balls over Fran Williams and Funmi Fadoju throughout the quarter to find most of their goals. Whilst being effective in attack, Austin and Koenen were also working hard defensively and forced a couple of turnovers on the edge of the final third.
The Diamonds were organised in the middle of the court as Amy Parmenter and Jamie-Lee Price made it difficult for the Vitality Roses to move the ball quickly and going into the first break, the hosts surged to a five-goal lead.
Into the second quarter and Layla Guscoth was introduced for her first appearance of the series, coming in for Williams as Jess Thirlby looked to combat the aerial threat of the Aussie attack. The Vitality Roses showed more determination in defence as Fadoju rose high to deny a feed into Koenen before Guscoth flew out of the defensive third to make a fantastic intercept. In the attacking end, Cardwell began to see more of the ball and helped her side reduce the deficit to one. But the hosts responded and began to defend deeper as Jo Weston and Sarah Klau stayed in the circle, denying the Roses shooters any space under the post. Unable to break the Diamonds' defensive line, the hosts capitalised on their gains through sharp shooting from Austin and the Commonwealth champions returned to a four-goal lead before the break.
Similar to the second quarter, the Vitality Roses started the brighter as Laura Malcolm, making her 50th appearance for England, moved into centre and Imogen Allison came in at WD, providing more energy in the Roses’ build up play. Geva Mentor came in for cap 162 for Fadoju and helped in defence as Thirlby’s side worked their way back to within two goals. As the Vitality Roses pushed to level the score, the Diamonds midcourt of Amy Parmenter and Maddy Proud continued to cause frustration, breaking up play regularly. Minutes before the break, Proud received a knock from her teammate Austin but quickly returned to her feet as Sophie Dwyer came on in her place. Meanwhile, Hannah Joseph was brought in for captain Nat Metcalf for the visitors. In the Diamonds’ shooting end, Austin and Koenen showed dynamic movement and broke in and out of the circle, pulling Mentor and Guscoth away from the post and opening up the space as the Aussies stretched their lead to eight before the final quarter.
With just 15 minutes to go, Thirlby made several changes as the Head Coach looked to keep the series alive. Housby, Clarke and Williams all came back into the game but with a strong lead in hand, the Commonwealth Games gold medallists showed their experience as they slowed down the play, making it hard for the Vitality Roses to pick up any momentum. Going goal-to-goal, neither side could pull away as the two teams contested a 14-14 quarter with the Diamonds holding on to take a 56-48 win and claim the series.
Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby said after the game: “We had enough turnover to get ourselves back into the game but we were wasteful after finding the ball. We knew that would be much harder to get tonight and we knew the Diamonds would tidy up and be great in possession.
“In every quarter we found a way back in but we didn’t finish quarters well enough, particularly in the first half so we found ourselves chasing the scoreboard.”
Before the Vitality Roses took to court, the England Thorns – the England men’s netball team – made history as they played out their first ever international match. Formed just seven months ago, the England Thorns faced the Australian men's team in a curtain raiser in Sydney where the hosts came out on top, winning 73-27.
Captain James Thomson-Boston commented afterwards: “It was just historic. To be able to play in this arena, in front of a crowd this big and to play against the best in the world, and at some points compete – we’re not going to say we were competing for all 60 minutes but we’re a very fresh squad. Give us five years and I think that score line will be a bit closer.”
“We wouldn’t be here without the Roses. These girls have helped us every step of the way, allowed us into their training sessions and given us personal feedback and we couldn’t be prouder to be their counterparts.”
The Vitality Roses will play the Australian Diamonds in the final match of the series on Thursday 3 November. You can watch all the action on Sky Sports Arena from 8am (UK time).