A strong third quarter from the Australian Diamonds saw the Vitality Roses lose out in the first game of their Netball Quad Series campaign.
The Vitality Roses started quickly and took a one-goal lead into half-time but the Commonwealth Games gold medallists fought back after the break and turned the game in their favour.
Quarter one: Back in the red dress after missing the series with Jamaica, Eleanor Cardwell opened the scoring, getting the Vitality Roses off the mark. Within minutes, England capitalised on an early turnover after showing great organisation to deny the Diamonds from attacking on their centre pass. Australia struggled to adjust and were forced into a couple of unforced errors in the shooting circle, thanks to good defensive work from Funmi Fadoju and Layla Guscoth. The Vitality Roses transitioned quickly into attack and some composed feeds from captain Natalie Metcalf and Helen Housby into Cardwell saw England go into a nine-goal lead.
As quarter time neared, the Diamonds started to cut the deficit as Liz Watson began to connect with Sophie Garbin, finding better angles in the attacking end. In the final seconds of the quarter, Courtney Bruce flew through the defensive third to intercept the ball from Jade Clarke but the Diamonds were unable to get the ball up to Garbin in time as the Vitality Roses took a four-goal lead into the first interval.
Quarter two: Into the second quarter and the Diamonds looked to claw their way back into the game. The Vitality Roses took their time working the ball down the right and when Clarke tried to find Cardwell on the edge of the circle, Sunday Aryang was there to reach out and deny the feed. The Diamonds cut the deficit but the Vitality Roses kept their composure as Housby and Cardwell continued to keep the score ticking over for England.
Midway through the quarter, Head Coach Jess Thirlby made some slight tweaks to the side, bringing Alice Harvey in at goal keeper for her first game against Australia, moving Fadoju and Guscoth around in the defensive end and pushing Imogen Allison up into centre in place of Clarke. Soon after, Australia coach Stacey Marinkovich made changes of her own, adding Sarah Klau into the Diamonds’ defence in place of Aryang to give Cardwell a different type of test in the circle.
Australia firmed up their shape forcing the Vitality Roses to slow down and be more patient in their build-up. A missed shot from Housby just two minutes from the end of the half made it seem like the Diamonds would take the lead going into the break but a turnover initiated by Fadoju after sloppy build up from Australia allowed Cardwell to give her side the advantage again, taking the score to 32-31 in favour of the Vitality Roses.
Straight into the third quarter and Fadoju was at it again, making an immediate impact with an intercept on the sideline, helping England extend their advantage.
Just moments later, Marinkovic made further changes, swapping Kiera Austin in for Liz Watson – a change that made a real impact in the quarter as the Diamonds began to look more assertive in the middle of the court and quicker in attack. Thirlby responded, bringing Fran Williams and Chelsea Pitman in for their first minutes of the series in place of Fadoju and Metcalf as the Vitality Roses looked to stem the flow of Australia’s attack.
Five minutes from the end of the quarter and the Diamonds began to up the pressure and a couple of errors from the Vitality Roses in the attacking end allowed the Australians to shift the momentum and take a seven-goal lead going into the final quarter.
Quarter four: With 15 minutes to go, the contest between the two sides began to heat up. As the Vitality Roses tried to up the tempo, the Diamonds’ defence stayed organised and a couple of misplaced feeds in attack saw Australia take advantage.
Fadoju, Clarke, Metcalf and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis were all brought on midway through the quarter and helped inject some extra energy into the team as they began to show more freedom. Cardwell, who continued her fine form under the post, shooting at 93%, tried to help spark a late comeback for her side and put the Vitality Roses ahead for the quarter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Australian Diamonds held on for a 61-55 win.
Australian Diamonds starting seven: Courtney Bruce (GK), Sunday Aryang (GD), Jamie-Lee Price (WD), Paige Hadley (C), Liz Watson (WA), Steph Wood (GA), Sophie Garbin (GS)
Substitutes: Kiera Austin, Tara Hinchliffe, Sarah Klau, Cara Koenen, Kate Maloney
Vitality Roses starting seven: Funmi Fadoju (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Imogen Allison (WD), Jade Clarke (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Alice Harvey, Laura Malcolm, Chelsea Pitman, Francesca Williams
All of the games from the Netball Quad Series are being shown live on Sky Sports. The Vitality Roses return to court tomorrow when they take on hosts South Africa. Tune in on Sky Sports Arena, Mix and YouTube from 13:30.