Following the Vitality Roses’ success against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in the final game of the International Test, England travel to South Africa for the World Netball Quad Series.
The series ran in Cape Town from January 21-25, just six months before the Netball World Cup is due to land in the country, the first to be held on the continent.
The previous series took place in London at the Copper Box Arena where the Australian Diamonds defeated the Vitality Roses in the final to take home the title.
Ahead of the series, England Netball CEO Fran Connolly said: “After a fantastic home international series, we look forward to seeing more incredible netball tournaments featuring four of the top five nations.
“As the World Netball Championship approaches, this is an opportunity for our Vitality Roses to make a statement ahead of summer and for our fans to see some of the best players in world netball.”
The series featured Commonwealth gold medalists Australia, New Zealand, the hosts and of course England.
Speaking ahead of the series, England Netball Performance Director David Parsons said: “This is another big test and gives players more opportunities to compete with the best in the world.
“It’s an opportunity for us to watch our players in a competitive environment leading up to the Netball World Cup.”
The Roses lost their first game of the series campaign 61-55 to the Australian Diamonds.
After the first quarter, the Roses led 18-14, but Australia narrowed that lead to one at half-time, then took control in the third quarter to lead 48-21.
Eleanor Cardwell scored 93% overall, an impressive return to the Roses side after missing out on the recent 2-1 win over Jamaica to recover from injury.
Australia’s Kiera Austin’s introduction in the third quarter was crucial as they found their attack fluid while the defense held up in the fourth quarter with several key interceptions.
Numerous mistakes by Jess Thirlby’s Vitality Roses also contributed to Australia’s decisive lead.
Meanwhile, New Zealand dominated hosts South Africa with a 61-41 win.
The Roses returned to the pitch and took on South Africa. After an exciting game, a last-second goal from Lenize Potgieter prevented the Roses from a late win, and both teams settled 46-46 for a rare quad-series draw.
The score was 23-23 at half-time before South Africa took the lead with eight minutes to go, taking a five-point lead.
The Roses equalized and were motivated for continued contact after a suspension of South African goalkeeper Phumza Maweni, leaving the hosts six players behind in the last ten minutes.
England took the lead but remaining defender Karla Pretorius did an excellent job of repelling Rose’s possession and giving South Africa a chance to level the game in the dying seconds.
England captain Natalie Metcalf said: “We had a moment to win this game and it’s really hard to take. But credit to our girls for getting us back in this game.
“We’ve been up at times and need to think about how to move forward and build on those leads. Credit to South Africa for showing a really strong game.”
On the same day, Australia beat New Zealand, earning them a place in the final.
England missed out on a place in the final after losing to New Zealand 55-45, but Helen Housby scored her 1,000. Goal for England.
The Roses were down 21-27 at halftime and leveled 39-39 in the last quarter, but the Silver Ferns held on to secure a win and a place in the Finals.
England finished the group stage without a win and faced South Africa in the third-place play-off. After a hard-fought game, England secured victory 49-42 and finished third in the Quad Series.
South Africa kept up with the Roses, but after a dominant final quarter England took a seven-goal lead in Cape Town.
Thirlby made several changes throughout the game to identify their top 12 players ahead of the World Cup and Jade Clark made her 200th England appearance.
Defensively, England dominated the game with players like Funmi Fadoju making key interceptions alongside fellow defender Geva Mentor.
Similar to the losses to Australia and New Zealand, however, the Roses struggled to convert that successful defense into goals in attack and continued to be caught up by opponents.
England led by a margin at half-time and eventually pulled away in the closing minutes of the game with a glimpse of Thirlby’s potentially best team on the pitch.
England manager Jess Thirlby said of the game: “It’s been a good journey, we just have to keep finding a way to compete with those placed above us.
“They’re the group I’ve worked with the most and it’s an absolute delight to see their resilience growing over the course of January.”
Australia retained their Quad Series title, defeating New Zealand 56-50 in a thrilling match after winning all of their matches throughout the series.
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