England Roses 50-54 Australian Diamonds
Valiant Roses beaten by Diamonds in Quad Series opener
The England Roses battled valiantly but left themselves too much to do as the Australian Diamonds won 54-50 in the Quad Series opener.
Tracey Neville’s side, who were without Jo Harten, made a strong start to the game with both Helen Housby and Kadeen Corbin getting on the scoresheet early doors.
The hosts, backed by the vocal Brisbane crowd, slowly and steadily grew into the quarter.
The Diamonds started to dominate in the mid-court and punished the Roses with their slick transitions through to goal.
They accelerated away with three unanswered goals in the closing minutes to take a 15-10 lead.
There were changes for the Roses at the start of the second quarter with Serena Guthrie moving to centre and Beth Cobden taking the wing defence bib.
It was a clash of the titans between Sunshine Coast Lightning teammates Geva Mentor and Caitlin Bassett but the goal shooter was in fine form, netting six times in the opening five minutes of the second quarter.
Captain Ama Agbeze entered the fray halfway through the second 15 minutes and immediately linked up well with the experienced Mentor.
The Roses fought hard and sharp shooting from Helen Housby helped reduce the gap to seven.
Despite missing Sharni Layton, the hosts’ defence ultimately remained resolute and the Roses were left to rue missed opportunities to capitalise on turnovers.
It was a case of déjà vu for the Roses as the Diamonds found another gear at the end of the first half to take a 10-goal lead into the break.
The Roses went back out for the third quarter trailing 32-22, fielding an unchanged line-up, while the Diamonds made two changes bringing Jo Weston into goal defence for April Brandley and Tegan Philip into goal attack for Gretel Tippett.
Agbeze exuded passion and leadership on court and led by example, flying in to steal the ball back but the Roses were unable to convert.
She remained unfazed and jumped straight back up to her feet after a heavy tumble saw her hit the deck.
The Roses’ transition became quicker and more clinical with Chelsea Pitman displaying great vision and delivery into the shooters.
Minutes later and Agbeze was once again showing her athleticism and commitment, stretching to keep the ball in play and her effort was rewarded when the ball was transitioned through court and Housby scored.
The commanding third quarter from the Roses took the score to 43-37 and set up a tense final 15 minutes with the Diamonds leading by just six goals.
The gap could have been down to five but the ball wouldn’t drop in for Corbin at the start of the final quarter.
The Diamonds were patient in their build-up, allowing space to open up and a smart drive from Tippett meant Bassett was left alone under the post to score.
But they were wary of the potential of the Roses to cause an upset in the final moments and brought the experienced Brandley back on to shore up the defence.
The shooting partnership of Corbin and Housby scored four times without answer to reduce the gap to just three goals with one minute to play and the tension in Brisbane was palpable.
It simply wasn’t to be though for the Roses but there were plenty of positives to take and the side will certainly hope to carry their momentum from the second half into the next game.
Courtney Bruce was named Player of the Match for the Diamonds after putting in an impressive display at GK on her debut.
The Roses will have to dust themselves down and get ready to go again on Wednesday in their second game in the Netball Quad Series.
England will travel to Auckland to face New Zealand and will be determined to improve upon the result from the two sides’ last international meeting, when the Silver Ferns’ ruthless display saw them secure a comprehensive 61-37 victory over the Roses.
Meanwhile, Australia will play South Africa in Canberra and will look to make it two from two as they seek to claim a third straight Quad Series title.
Roses starting 7: GS - Corbin, GA - Housby, WA - Pitman, C - Clarke, WD - Guthrie, GD - Beckford-Chambers, GK - Mentor
Roses bench: Agbeze, Cardwell, Cobden, Francis, Haythornthwaite
Diamonds starting 7: GS – Bassett, GA –Tippett, WA – Robinson, C – Ravaillion, WD - Simpson GD – Brandley, GK – Bruce
Diamonds bench: Mannix, Philip, Thwaites, Watson, Weston
Roses: Corbin 20/25 (80%), Housby 30/34 (88%)
Diamonds: Bassett 43/46 (93%), Tippett 7/9 (78%), Philip 4/5 (80%)
photo Getty Images