The New Zealand Silver Ferns opened the day’s matches with a 62-57 victory over the Uganda She Cranes in a match that saw midcourter Tayla Earle pick up the Vitality Player of the Match award. The Vitality Roses then fought hard against a dominant Origin Australian Diamonds team, but were unable to stop the Diamonds from building a large lead in the scoreline. The game ended 69-49 and Sophie Garbin, who shot 31 goals at 97% shooting accuracy, was awarded the Vitality Player of the Match.
The game got off to an exciting start with an early tip from Funmi Fadoju, whose game-saving intercept yesterday earnt her the start in the wing defence position today. It was Eleanor Cardwell who scored first for the Vitality Roses, resulting in a loud roar from the Leeds crowd. Both teams immediately settled into their flow on court, each taking their next few centre passes directly to goal. Then a powerful pass slipped through the hands of Cardwell, resulting in a replayed ball call, and the Diamonds took an early lead, which they managed to extend out to four goals. The Diamonds applied tight defensive pressure across the court, making it difficult for the Roses’ attack to find a direct path to goal. As the crowd chanted for the Roses, Cardwell scored, providing a much-needed goal to settle her team. Courtney Bruce then used impressive elevation to tip the ball away from Cardwell’s hands and the Diamonds extended their lead to 12-6. The Diamond’s attack end continued to play with speed, carving through the Roses’ defence, and sensing her team needed to lift, Nat Metcalf sent a spectacular long-range feed into Cardwell under the post. A missed shot followed from Sophie Dwyer and Helen Housby converted the turnover, bringing the Roses to within five goals with time on the clock to take one last centre pass before the end of the quarter. Cardwell scored the final goal of the quarter bringing the score to 17-13 in favour of the Diamonds.
Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby made three changes as the second quarter began. Sasha Glasgow and Ellie Rattu took to the court as goal shooter and wing defence and Fadoju moved from wing defence to goal defence. Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby was almost immediately rewarded by a tip from Fadoju, but the Roses were unfortunately called for offside at the same time. In the minutes that followed, the Vitality Roses were on the unlucky side of some umpiring calls, and the deficit grew to nine goals. But then an attacking contact was called against the Diamonds and the Roses were able to score off the turnover ball, bringing the score to 22-16. Glasgow scored her first goal of the match, but on the next passage of play she slipped on the edge of the court, giving possession back to the Diamonds. To the delight of the crowd, Fadoju ran through the court to intercept the ball on the Diamond’s centre pass. Imogen Allison found Housby in the circle and the Vitality Roses were able to build some momentum, scoring the next two goals and bringing the score to 25-20. However, Bruce snapped up the rebound of a missed shot from Glasgow on the next passage of play. As Australia scored their 29th goal of the game, Sarah Klau replaced Jo Weston at goal defence. Paige Hadley then intercepted the ball, giving the Diamonds another opportunity to attack. Combining with Allison, come quick passes in and out of the circle allowed Housby a shot at goal, but she missed and Australia regained possession of the ball, ending the quarter with a 10 goal lead, 35-25.
Thirlby made three further changes to start the third quarter, Halimat Adio entered the court as goal keeper, Amy Carter as centre and Fran Williams re-entered the game at goal defence. The Vitality Roses were looking for some turnover ball, but it was the Diamonds who found this first as Carter kept a loose ball on court, but it fell into the hands of Klau. Another bounce pass from the Roses was picked up around the circle edge, allowing Australia to grow their lead to 39-26. The Vitality Roses worked skilfully to move the ball around the tight defence of the Diamonds and a well-timed ball from Metcalf found Housby in plenty of space in the circle. Despite this, turnover ball was nearly impossible to find against the slick Australian attacking play. A held ball on Dwyer, who was about to shoot, gave the Roses the opportunity they were searching for, but Jamie-Lee Price silenced the crowd with an intercept in the centre court. Cardwell and Allison were brought back on as goal shooter and wing defence, bringing some much-needed experience back to the Vitality Roses on court. Both Williams and Carter were able to disrupt the play of the Diamonds in their attacking end, but the Australians retained possession and went on to score both times. The Roses then lost possession in their own attacking end and Sophie Dwyer scored on the turnover ball, bringing the score to 49-31. A short pass between Carter and Housby then allowed the Diamonds to open a 20-goal lead. Klau went offside after receiving the centre pass, giving England a chance and they scored, removing one goal from the Diamonds lead. But then confusion between Metcalf and Cardwell resulted in a ball going out of court for the Roses and the score at the end of the quarter was 53-35.
As the final quarter of the Vitality Netball Nations Cup got underway, Australian Head Coach Stacey Marinkovich brought on Keira Austin at goal attack, Cara Koenen at goal shooter and Kate Moloney at centre. Meanwhile for the Roses, Hannah Joseph came on at wing attack and Imogen Allison moved to centre. Captain Williams moved to goal keeper and Carter moved to wing defence. The quarter began with an impressive show of strength from Cardwell to keep the ball in court, and the two teams went goal-for-goal for the first four minutes. Housby found Cardwell home alone under the post but then missed a long-range shot and Australia took the ball quickly down court. Sunday Aryang came on at wing defence, replacing Price. This lifted the Australian defence who picked up several crucial gains over the next few minutes, extending the scoreline to 62-41. At the other end of the court Williams earnt a vital turnover for the Vitality Roses, who had to battle to get the ball out of the end third, before Cardwell scored. A quick ball from the hands of Allison to Housby showed the fighting spirit that remained with the Roses, who did not give up despite the growing scoreline. Housby showed commitment to the very end of the game, scoring the final goal and ending the match with a 69-49 score.
Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby said: “I thought we started the game lovely, there was quite a decent feel in the team, nice confidence… I think you saw a little bit of grit, we stayed within touching distance going into half time. It was a real shame we let that slip, so our responses today weren’t at the level that they need to be against a team like that.”
She added: “We know where we are, we know we can compete, we know we’re capable… but we get punished in those moments and rightly so. We have to be smarter and that’s where we’re at, but I’m super proud that we’ve put ourselves in this position because it keeps telling us stuff that we need to know and we’ve got three years to keep building on that.”
Vitality Rose, Helen Housby, reflected on the series as a whole saying: “Overall it was awesome for us. We had a lot of young girls who are getting either first caps or exposure to international netball against different teams. A lot of these girls haven’t played against the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Uganda so in that respect I think it’s been awesome.
On today’s match she commented: “Finals day was definitely disappointing… credit to the Aussies they played a great game and it was very difficult for us to get ball off them… I think for us it’s just about being uncomfortable and learning to deal with it and I think those occasions with the big crowd and the Aussies taking it to you, it’s just about finding the small wins that you can and grinding out goals when you don’t really feel like it. But that comes with experience and I think it’s a great step for us.”
Vitality Roses starting seven: Razia Quashie (GK), Fran Williams (GD), Funmi Fadoju (WD), Imogen Allison (C), Nat Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Halimat Adio, Amy Carter, Sasha Glasgow, Hannah Joseph, Ellie Rattu
Origin Australian Diamonds starting seven: Courtney Bruce (GK), Jo Weston (GD), Jamie-Lee Price (WD), Paige Hadley (C), Liz Watson (WA), Sophie Dwyer (GA), Sophie Garbin (GS)
Substitutes: Sunday Aryang, Keira Austin, Sarah Klau, Cara Koenen, Kate Moloney