The Vitality Roses sealed the Vitality Roses Reunited Series with a game to spare on Saturday afternoon with a sensational 66-47 victory over the Jamaica Sunshine Girls.
After a 55-45 victory in front of a sell-out crowd at Copper Box Arena last weekend, the Vitality Roses showed they meant business once again at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
Head Coach Jess Thirlby made a few tweaks to her starting line-up with Manchester Thunder’s Eleanor Cardwell getting the nod at goal shooter, whilst GIANTS Netball stalwart Jo Harten moved into the goal attack position.
In the defensive circle Eboni Usoro-Brown stepped into the goal keeper spot with former Team Bath teammate Layla Guscoth by her side at goal defence.
Within a matter of seconds Cardwell sunk the opening shot much to the delight of an increasingly loud crowd. Leaving no time for Jamaica to retaliate, Harten and Caldwell used just 50 seconds to extend their lead to three with pinpoint shooting accuracy and confidence growing.
This unstoppable combination continued to dominate the shooting circle for much of the opening half leaving Jamaica struggling to adjust and adapt.
The Sunshine Girls’ Jhaniele Fowler held strong against Usoro-Brown and began to increase the visiting side’s tally; however it was the Vitality Roses that ended the quarter in the lead (21-13).
The visitors came out fighting in the second quarter, increasing the physicality in a bid to close the gap.
Natalie Haythornthwaite and Serena Guthrie’s lightning speed transitions kept the ball safe and with the injection of Helen Housby to goal attack mid-way through the quarter, Jamaica were once again forced to readjust.
Gaining her first appearance of the series at the end of the first half, Team Bath’s Imogen Allison provided a different dynamic to the Vitality Roses’ defensive end to keep Jamaica once again on their toes.
Thirlby’s side extended their advantage throughout the quarter and were 35-19 up at the break.
An unchanged England side got the second half underway and soon play hit a stalemate with neither side able to convert a shot for several minutes due to unforced errors.
Jamaica continued to press and challenge across court to claw back some of the deficit.
A reintroduction of Harten and a first appearance in Nottingham for Stacey Francis-Bayman mid-way through the third quarter gave the Vitality Roses an opportunity to inject fresh legs into the match and give Cardwell and Guscoth a chance to reflect and regroup.
England stalwart Jade Clarke also made her 183rd appearance in the red dress at the close of the quarter, much to the delight of her adoring fans.
The final quarter saw Team Bath’s Sophie Drakeford-Lewis on in place of Nat Haythornthwaite as the Vitality Roses looked to close out the match and secure the series.
Going up against her West Coast Fever teammate, Francis-Bayman shut down the incoming feed to Fowler to open up further opportunities for England to capitalise.
As the clock ran down, the Vitality Roses secured a hard fought but well-earned 66-47 victory.
The day also saw success for men’s side London Giants who claimed a 45-57 win against an England Development squad in the curtain raiser.
The series will draw to a close on Sunday 5 December at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena. A limited number of tickets are still available and can be purchased here.
On the final day of the series, the England Development team will once again warm up the crowd as they take on Knights Men’s Netball Club.
Player of the Match: Natalie Haythornthwaite
Vitality Roses Starting VII: Eboni Usoro-Brown (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Beth Cobden (WD), Serena Guthrie (C), Natalie Haythornthwaite (WA), Jo Harten (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS).