The Vitality Roses celebrated a successive series win over the Jamaica Sunshine Girls, clinching the final game of the Vitality Netball International Series in London.
Played in front of a sold-out Copper Box Arena, the Vitality Roses showed focus and resilience to overturn a half-time one-goal deficit and see out a four-goal win.
Jamaica named an unchanged side after their win in the second game meanwhile Jess Thirlby made two changes to yesterday’s team bringing Geva Mentor in for her first start of the series and Natalie Metcalf back in at wing attack ahead of Chelsea Pitman.
Just minutes into the game and Imogen Allison got the Copper Box crowd on their feet, flying through the middle of the court to make an early intercept. She then found Olivia Tchine who continued from where she left off yesterday, scoring at 94%, finding the goal twice from distance with back-to-back efforts. In the defensive end, Geva Mentor – back in the side after missing the first two games – came out determined to make her mark and stood up well to Jhaniele Fowler making a key intercept as the Sunshine Girls looked to find their talismanic shooter in the air. Teammate Funmi Fadoju, playing in her home arena, showed her aerial qualities too, leaping in front of Fowler to deny her from receiving the ball just under the post.
With captain Nat Metcalf back in the starting seven, the Vitality Roses showed great focus in the first quarter, finding space and making clean passes in their attacking play as they went into the first break with a four-goal lead.
After a cagey start from both teams in the second quarter, the Vitality Roses nestled back into their groove as Allison produced another big intercept from Jamaica’s long drive forward. Her midcourt partner Metcalf found herself in another battle with Jamaica’s wing defence Crystal Plummer and midway through the quarter, the defender was given a caution for persistent contact on the England attacker.
After making a couple of errors in the build-up to goal, the Sunshine Girls capitalised and with a minute to go, overturned the deficit to take the lead for the first time in the game. Before the break, Fowler signalled to the bench to come off after feeling nauseous and made way for Shimona Nelson who came on for her first minutes in London. Just before the buzzer, Tchine managed to collect a long feed under the post before composing herself to bring the score back to within one as the two teams went into the break.
Into the second half and both sides went goal for goal as the game started to turn into a tennis match. After receiving a caution in the second quarter, 20-year-old Plummer was given a warning for further contact as she tried to break up the Vitality Roses’ rhythm.
Midway through the quarter and the hosts drew level; Fadoju showed great athleticism to pick up a low ball and dispossess the Jamaican centre. Shortly after Layla Guscoth returned to court in her more familiar position of goal defence and immediately got the crowd going with a huge intercept on the edge of the defensive third, getting the Vitality Roses back on the front foot and back into the lead with three minutes left in the quarter. Soon after, Elle McDonald, selected for her first international series, came on to make her Vitality Roses debut at centre.
After a number of warnings, Plummer was suspended by umpire Gareth Fowler with just a minute left as the hosts took a four-goal lead going into the final quarter.
Looking to take advantage of the extra player for the last minute of the suspension, the Vitality Roses started quickly, zipping the ball from the centre circle to goal. Fowler returned to the game and quickly showed her aerial ability, extending her arm to the edge of the circle to receive a long ball from Khadijah Williams before returning under the post and firing to bring her side back to within two.
Six minutes to go and Williams went in search of Fowler from distance but the shooter was unable to collect the feed, allowing Mentor – who registered six deflections in the game - to pick up the loose ball much to the delight of the home crowd. Tchine, playing another full sixty minutes for a second consecutive game, remained composed under the post despite the pressure of Kadie-Ann Dehaney and substitute Roxonna McLean as the London Pulse shooter helped stretch the Vitality Roses lead to five with just a couple of minutes left on the clock.
As time ran down, the Vitality Roses managed the game, slowing down their build-up. With chants of ‘England’ ringing around the Copper Box, Fowler had time for one more last shot from distance but she was unable to land the final goal as the Vitality Roses celebrated a 63-59 win.
Vitality Player of the Match: Natalie Metcalf
Vitality Player of the Series: Layla Guscoth
The Vitality Roses will now travel to South Africa to play in the Netball Quad Series against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, starting on Saturday 21 January.
Vitality Roses starting seven: Geva Mentor (GK), Funmi Fadoju (GD), Layla Guscoth (WD), Imogen Allison (C), Natalie Metcalf (WA), Helen Housby (GA), Olivia Tchine (GS)
Substitutes: Jade Clarke, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Alice Harvey, Elle McDonald, Francesca Williams
Jamaica starting seven: Kadie-Ann Dehaney (GK), Jodi-Ann Ward (GD), Crystal Plummer (WD), Nicole Dixon-Rochester (C), Khadijah Williams (WA), Shanice Beckford (GA), Jhaniele Fowler (GS)
Substitutes: Malysha Kelly, Roxonna McLean, Shimon Nelson, Rebekah Robinson, Abigale Sutherland