Roses and Diamonds remain undefeated ahead of final
IT was the result that should have been the most predictable. Whilst billed as the game that would finally determine which side out of England and Australia would head into the 2022 Quad Series final undefeated, it was fitting that the drawn result meant both escaped defeat. Though effectively a dead rubber game ahead of tomorrow’s decider, the Roses were able to capitalise with a couple of late goals in the final minute to draw level and share the game with the Diamonds, 48 goals apiece.
Both sides were keen to trial certain combinations ahead of the Final, with Jade Clarke and Eboni Usoro-Brown starting where they left off, in the centre and goal keeper bibs respectively. Eleanor Cardwell – who missed game two after starting game one – was back in the goal shooter position alongside Helen Housby. For the Australians, Cara Koenen secured her first start next to Steph Wood, with Jamie-Lee Price (centre) and Sarah Klau (goal keeper) also starting for the first time this series.
The first term went the way of the visitors with Australia scoring 12 goals to nine. Though Koenen (seven goals from eight attempts) and Wood (five from seven) had six more opportunities, you could hardly fault the Roses. Cardwell nailed eight goals from eight attempts, whilst Housby scored off her only attempt. The reason the Roses had six less shots? The super-human effort from Klau.
The Diamonds goal keeper amassed a whopping four intercepts and five gains in the opening 15 minutes, to make up for the fact the front third of the court had given up four turnovers in the quarter, and the shooting efficiency was lower than the Roses. Down by three at quarter time, the Roses brought on regular starter Beth Cobden for Clarke, and shuffled the order with Cobden going to wing defence and Guthrie moving to centre. Cardwell and Housby also swapped bibs in the goal circle. Brazill came off for the Diamonds with Kate Moloney on in wing defence.
The second term was much closer, with the Diamonds edging one more goal futher ahead courtesy of an 11-10 quarter. Wood shot all five of her attempts and handed off four goal assists to Koenen who finished with six goals from eight attempts. Price was working hard in the midcourt picking up an intercept and three goal assists, whilst Jo Weston thrived against Cardwell with a couple of rebounds close to the post with good positioning. Cardwell did not miss a chance from her five attempts though, with Housby (five from seven and three goal assists) and Guthrie (four goal assists) helping keep the the Roses in there, as Laura Malcolm replaced Natalie Metcalf midway through the quarter. By half-time, the score read 23-19 in favour of the Diamonds.
Australia rotated plenty of options ahead of the third quarter, with Weston coming from the defensive goal circle, and Koenen and Wood earning a break from the other end. The Diamonds headed into the second half with a new-look attacking end featuring Sophie Garbin (goal shooter) and Gretel Bueta (goal attack), whilst Sunday Aryang earned her second international cap coming on in goal defence. Geva Mentor replaced Usoro-Brown in goal keeper to match up on her new Magpies teammate, Garbin. The only other change for the term came late with Guthrie coming off for Sophie Drakeford-Lewis who moved into wing attack, while Malcolm grabbed the centre bib.
The higher-scoring term saw Australia yet again claim the chocolates 15-13, with Garbin enormous against Mentor with 13 goals from 14 attempts. Price’s feeds – five goal assists from seven feeds – was crucial, whilst Aryang added an element against Cardwell that mixed up the rhythm. The youngster picked up a rebound and gain, whilst Bueta (two goals, five goal assists an intercept and rebound) did it all. For the Roses, Housby shot all six goals she attempted, while Cardwell finished with seven from nine. Mentor and Guscoth both collected an intercept and a gain, but it was Housby’s versatility to also provide a team-high four goal assists with her six goals that made her unpredictable in the goal circle.
Remaining with the same lineups to start the final term, the Diamonds made the one swap five minutes in, with Courtney Bruce replacing Klau to form an all-West Coast Fever defensive goal circle with Aryang. The Roses had started strongly to level the scores by then, cutting back from a five-goal deficit at the final break to score 8-3 in the first seven minutes for both sides to be 41 goals apiece midway through the quarter. Australia did manage to get back on top with three consecutive goals in the space of 90 seconds to open up a 46-43 lead, and then 48-45 with just over two minutes remaining.
Stacey Francis-Bayman came on with the fresh legs at goal defence to replace Guscoth, and it seemed to work, Both Bueta and Garbin missed their first shots of the quarter. It proved costly, with Cardwell nailing a goal either side of Garbin’s final miss. Then with the last centre pass, they got the ball to Housby. As if the clock had been wound back to the last Commonwealth Games year, Housby calmly slotted the goal to draw the game with three seconds remaining and both sides headed into the final undefeated.
CLOSING THOUGHTS …
Housby finished with 22 goals from 24 attempts and an equal team-high 10 assists. Cardwell scored 26 from 30 in a Player of the Match effort, while Malcolm (10 goal assists) caught the eye in the second half. Guthrie was resolute as ever when on the court, with England able to showcase the depth across 12 different players on the day. After being beaten earlier in the day, the Roses defence managed to come good at the pointy end, whilst the midcourt managed to sufficiently provide minutes across the board.
For the Diamonds, Klau’s first quarter was absolutely outstanding, with Weston taking over in the second term, and Aryang catching the eye in the third. All four goalers got on the board in the game, with Garbin (18 goals from 20 attempts), Koenen (13 from 16) and Wood (10 from 12) sharing the load, while Bueta scored seven from nine in a half, but also picked up a rebound and an intercept. Price was consistent throughout the midcourt with 13 goal assists and an intercept, while Moloney continued her development in wing defence which could be a look to the Commonwealth Games.
Now the two heavyweights will go at it again tomorrow, but this time there can only be one winner.
GS: Eleanor Cardwell
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Metcalf
C: Jade Clarke
WD: Serena Guthrie
GD: Layla Guscoth
GK: Eboni Usoro-Brown
GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Liz Watson
C: Jamie-Lee Price
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Sarah Klau