The Vitality Roses claimed a 3-0 series win over brand-new side the Vitality Netball Superleague All Stars on Friday night, closing the trio of matches with a 55-43 victory.
Kick-starting the night’s proceedings with a confident long bomb, Cardwell remained composed from the get-go.
Sending quick fire bullets into Team Bath Netball’s Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, co-captain Natalie Haythornthwaite provided vital back up on the circle edge as the Vitality Roses quickly found their groove and created a lead.
Increasing their physicality for the final match of the series, the All Stars used every inch of the court to their advantage with long passes into the corner to Natalie Panagarry before firing it into Manchester Thunder’s pillar of strength Joyce Mvula.
Wreaking havoc on the familiar combination of Liana Leota and Mvula, the returning Layla Guscoth continued to apply pressure and eventually turned the famous looped pass into Mvula.
Despite increasing their defensive effort throughout the entirety of the squad, the All Stars continued to zone in on their opposition. They kept the attackers from their favoured position and forced the ball to be played around the circle edge. The opening quarter finished with the Vitality Roses ahead by eight.
The second quarter got underway with changes to both sides. Moving Loughborough Lightning captain Panagarry to wing defence, Head Coach Karen Greig opened up space for Thunder’s Caroline O’Hanlon to step onto court for the first time in game three.
Meanwhile, Laura Malcolm welcomed the centre bib with Vitality Roses co-captain Serena Guthrie moving to the wing defence spot. Providing a shake up in the circle, Celtic Dragons' Rebekah Robinson added an edge to the All Stars attack.
Holding strong in the Vitality Roses circle, Eleanor Cardwell continued to hold the line and allowed Sophie Drakeford-Lewis the freedom to run the circle edge which provided vital support in delivering the ball down court.
The All Stars, however, were keen to gain a win in the series. They stepped up a gear with Saracens Mavericks’ Jo Trip tipping ball after ball and shutting down the incoming pass. Their increase in work rate saw the VNSL stars win a quarter for the first time in the series.
Starting the second half with a series debut, Head Coach Jess Thirlby gave her Vitality Roses line-up a shake up with Vicki Oyesola stepping out for the first time at goal defence, Beth Cobden returning to wing defence and George Fisher taking her place in the goal shooter position.
Playing for the last time on home soil before departing to the ANZ Premiership in New Zealand, young gun Fisher used her knowledge of former Wasps Netball teammate Sam May to hold her off and open up space under the post.
Razia Quashie continued to hassle, eyeing the incoming ball before flying in to intercept or disrupt the All Stars attack. Commonwealth Games basketball star Gazelle Allison remained as cool as a cucumber, picking up the wide shots at goal for the All Stars as Mvula worked hard to keep the ball in play with magic feeds from O’Hanlon and Leota.
Giving the defensive unit a well-deserved rest towards the close of the quarter, Fi Toner and Summer Artman took to the court for the All Stars and provided a fresh set of legs and eyes in the game.
The famous ‘match winning quarter’ in the third period ended with their Vitality Roses extending their lead to 12 goals.
With just 15 minutes standing between Jess Thirby’s Vitality Roses and a 3-0 series whitewash, the side in red pressed on eager to ensure consistent dominance across all four quarters.
Whilst Trip and May returned to the All Stars defensive end, Guthrie threw her body on the line to halt the long ball into O’Hanlon. With injury to Mvula, the Vitality Roses soon came up against an unfamiliar shooting combination of Allison and Robinson whose long-range shots kept the board ticking over.
With a final injection of energy into the defensive end in Fran Williams, the Vitality Roses ran down the clock and secured a 55-43 victory over the Vitality Netball Superleague All Stars as the whistle sounded.
The series win saw the Vitality Roses raise the Jean Hornsby Cup, named after the first Black England netball player.
After another impressive display on court, Vitality Roses goal keeper Quashie claimed the Player of the Match award with fellow teammate and co-captain Nat Haythornthwaite revealed as the Sky Sports Player of the Series.
With thrilling no look passes and an array of aerial displays throughout the series, All Stars captain and New Zealand legend Liana Leota was voted Vitality Fans' Player of the season.
The game concludes the Vitality Legends Series which took place at Loughborough University after a monumental effort behind the scenes from England Netball, the VNSL and Sky Sports to bring live netball back.
Vitality Roses Starting VII: Razia Quashie (GK), Layla Guscoth (GD), Beth Cobden (WD), Serena Guthrie (C), Natalie Haythornthwaite (WA), Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS).
All Stars Starting VII: Jo Trip (GK), Sam May (GD), Fionnuala Toner (WD), Nat Panagarry (C), Liana Leota (WA), Gezelle Allison (GA), Joyce Mvula (GS).
A huge thank you to everyone for making the Vitality Netball Legends Series happen and the continued support from all of our partners during these challenging times.