Roses delight in front of home crowd
THE England Roses battled the Australian Diamonds for the top spot in the Northern Quad Series on home turf, coming out with bragging rights after a tough 52 – 49 win over the world champions. After a slow and sloppy start, England was able to hold back Australia’s advances to gain victory after a tumultuous Quad Series at London’s Copper Box Arena in front of a hostile home crowd.
Australia suffered yet another blow ahead of the round three matchup, losing key defender Courtney Bruce to concussion following yesterday’s win against New Zealand. With three starting seven players for Australia out with injury, Lisa Alexander’s depleted Australian squad showed depth despite not getting the win against the ruthless and injury-free Commonwealth champions.
Australia seemed unable to find a side that could work in harmony against the fighting Roses, creating a number of positional changes throughout the game which only seemed to work in England’s favour.
A strong start for Australia seemed to be history repeating itself, with England starting shooters Jo Harten and Helen Housby struggling to receive the ball past Diamonds defenders Jo Weston and Emily Mannix. Weston and Mannix connected well together in the circle, but often confused themselves in the space as much as the Roses shooters. Australia was unable to hold on to their 14 – 9 quarter time lead and seemed sluggish in a game where England were fired up and raring for a win.
Mannix had two intercepts in her first start for the season, but seemed unable to compete with England wildcard and match MVP Rachel Dunn, who took the court in the beginning of the second quarter and dominated the match shooting 24 goals from 25 attempts at 96 per cent efficiency. Dunn’s entry into the game was a revelation for England that the Aussies clearly weren’t prepared for. Harten had an improved game paired with Dunn, shooting 23 from 26 after a quarter-time change into goal attack. Dunn and Harten combined to shoot 18 goals in the second quarter, the highest quarter score of the game and one that certainly set up England’s impressive win.
After a strong first half in goal shooter, shooting 15 from 16 at 94 per cent, Caitlin Thwaites was retired to the bench and replaced by goal attack Steph Wood. Despite Thwaites’ strength and body work in the circle, Wood was placed in the circle to inject speed to the suffering goal circle and feed to goal attack, Gretel Tippett. Tippett shot a menacing 25 from26 across the four quarters, however missed opportunities to shoot when passing out to get closer to goal. Wood worked the circle well but found herself at times floating outside the circle with Tippett as a feeder, meaning there were no shooters in the ring to pass to.
Roses defenders Geva Mentor, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth were clever and clinical in their defensive approach, with circle defenders Mentor and Usoro-Brown suffocating the Australian shooters, and Guscoth helping to stop Australia’s speed downcourt. Australia’s bullet passes courtesy of Liz Watson and Kelsey Browne proved effective through the midcourt in patches of the game, but England’s speed through the centre rivalled that of the Aussies, creating a number of opportunities from deflections and bad passes with the help of star England centre Serena Guthrie. Young defender Fran Williams took the court in the final quarter for the first time in the series, backing up Mentor well and putting pressure on Australia’s struggling shooters.
Though Australia and England shot 25 goals apiece in the second half, it was England’s second quarter shooting blitz that won the game, along with Australia’s goal circle woes.
Despite the tight three-goal win over Australia, England were unable to be crowned Northern Quad Series Champions due to points and margin differences to allow for a tournament winner.
The Diamonds will count themselves lucky to pip England at the post to continue their Quad Series domination, but the win today suggests there is more trouble on the way for the Aussies as they look to rebuild for the Netball World Cup in July.
ENGLAND STARTING SEVEN:
GS: Jo Harten
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Natalie Haythornthwaite
C: Serena Guthrie
WD: Layla Guscoth
GD: Eboni Usoro-Brown
GK: Geva Mentor
BENCH: Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Jade Clarke, Chelsea Pitman, Fran Williams
AUSTRALIA STARTING SEVEN:
GS: Caitlin Thwaites
GA: Gretel Tippett
WA: Liz Watson
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Jamie-Lee Price
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Emily Mannix
BENCH: Steph Wood, April Brandley, Kiera Austin, Kelsey Browne, Courtney Bruce (INJ)