The Vitality Roses secured Vitality Netball Nations Cup bronze medal courtesy of a tense 65-63 victory over South Africa.
The win in this third-place play-off rounds off an exciting home tournament for the host nation, who took on three of the world’s best sides in three different cities.
Amy Carter, who earned her first start for the Vitality roses, started the game with the first centre pass.
England’s swift play into the circle led to George Fisher putting the first points on the board. South Africa returned quickly, settling their nerves through Lenize Potgieter, 1-1. The Vitality Roses capitalised on early mistakes from South Africa, with sharp shooting by Eleanor Cardwell and Fisher putting England three goals ahead within the first three minutes.
England’s possession continued throughout the first half with great interceptions and turnovers by the defensive and mid-court players leading to a five-goal cushion, 10-5. However, the SPAR Proteas kept fighting, reducing the difference to three goals by the end of the quarter, the score standing at 18-15.
With the crowd behind them, England maintained their composure at the start of the second quarter. Fisher and Cardwell added to their tally, with the SPAR Proteas not managing to find the net within the first three minutes of the quarter.
An excellent interception by Jade Clarke led to England increasing their lead by nine goals, 24-15. Cardwell stepped off court for Kadeen Corbin, who helped England continue their attacking presence.
South Africa tried to disrupt England’s dominance on the court by bringing on their captain Bongiwe Msomi. However, England were not fazed and finished the quarter with a comfortable seven-goal lead, 36-29.
The sold-out Copper Box crowd welcomed the Vitality Roses back onto the court after half time. Thirlby switched it up on court by bringing Kate Shimmin on at GD and moving Stacey Francis to GK. Both teams came out fighting but it was England who put the first points on the board. The ball travelled end to end as each team matched each other. Thirlby switched up the attacking pair again, putting Cardwell back onto court.
However, the SPAR Proteas seemed to switch a gear halfway through the quarter and it was South Africa who emerged the dominant team of the quarter, reducing England’s cushion to one by the end of the buzzer, 49-48. England knew that they needed to push hard to overcome a strong South Africa in the final quarter.
Vice-Captain Laura Malcolm came on at WD and Quashie came back on at GK, with Stacey Francis moving to GD and Clarke moving to C, meaning Amy Carter and Kate Shimmin stepped off court. South Africa quickly brought it level through Potgieter. However, England never gave up matching them goal to goal.
A foul against Francis meant a vital turnover for England. A Fisher goal seemed to put England in their stride, going three goals ahead one again. The roaring crowd certainly spurred the Vitality Roses on. Despite this, with seven minutes remaining, South Africa brought it level again. For the first time, the SPAR Proteas edged ahead through Potgieter, with her doubling their advantage shortly after, 58-60.
However, the Vitality Roses continued fighting and crucial interceptions from Quashie led to the ball finding Cardwell, who slotted it into the net. England’s determination led to them gaining a two-goal lead with one minute to go. A final interception at the buzzer by Quashie secured the win for England with the final score ending 65-63.
England starting seven: George Fisher (GS), Eleanor Cardwell (GA), Nat Haythornthwaite (WA), Amy Carter (C), Jade Clarke (WD), Stacey Francis (GD), Razia Quashie (GK)
South Africa starting seven: Lenize Potgieter (GS), Lefébre Rademan (GA), Izette Griesel (WA), Khanyisa Chawane (C), Shadine Van der Merwe (WD), Karla Pretorius (GD), Phumza Maweni (GK)