Roses seal series win
The Roses lifted the Vitality Netball International Series trophy in front of a packed crowd at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.
Vitality Player of the Match and the Series Fran Williams formed a solid defensive partnership with Funmi Fadoju as the pair picked up six gains across the match to help keep the SPAR Proteas at arm’s length across the course of the game.
Norma Plummer was given a guard of honour at the end of the game as she bowed out from her role as Head Coach of South Africa.
The win marks a successful end to the year for the Vitality Roses who after winning a a silver medal at the Netball World Cup in South Africa were able to celebrate a win at the end of the highest-selling home three-match test series.
Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby made several alterations to the team that started yesterday’s game. Sasha Glasgow returned to the starting seven in place of Berri Neil whilst Amy Carter came in for her first start of the series at centre and her first start in a home international since the Nations Cup in 2020, in the same venue where she made her debut. After a slow start yesterday, England looked determined to start with a quicker tempo and the new look defence of goal keeper Fran Williams, goal defence Funmi Fadoju and wing defence Imogen Allison immediately pressured the visitors into a couple of unforced errors. SPAR Proteas Head Coach Norma Plummer made just one change to the side that levelled the series bringing the experienced Phumza Maweni back in ahead of Nicola Smith. Midway through the first quarter, play was halted as umpire Tara Warner was forced off with an injury; she was swiftly replaced by reserve Rhian Edwards. England’s organisation in defence was a cause of frustration for the visitors who with a couple of minutes to play were caught out for breaking on their centre pass. Eleanor Cardwell and Glasgow punished their opponents, converting all their chances under the post to give the Vitality Roses a 16-11 lead going into the first break.
Buoyed by their positive start, Jess Thirlby’s side continued where they left off, stretching their lead to seven at the start of the second quarter. The SPAR Proteas responded quickly as Maweni, unnerved by the caution she received in the first quarter, drove out from the circle to tip the ball away from Carter. But England restrained any South African rhythm as they continued to find solid connections through the court, particularly through Hannah Joseph at wing attack who produced a fantastic 28 feeds in the first half. Williams and Fadoju stretched the SPAR Proteas attack, forcing Rolene Streutker and Kamogelo Maseko to the edge of the circle, limiting their service directly under the post. Midway through the quarter, Williams showed great tenacity under the post to pick up a rebound which helped England to regain their advantage. Just before the break, the visitors edged back the score to claim the quarter 14-13, to leave them trailing by four going into the second half.
After no changes from either team in the first half, both sides made alterations in the attacking ends as Neil came on in place of Glasgow and SPAR Proteas captain Bongiwe Msomi came on for Khanyisa Chawane. After a Vitality Player of the Match performance in the second test, Streutker was under the watchful eye of Williams in the circle and minutes into the second half, capitalised on a missed attempt with another key rebound. The momentum began to swing into South Africa’s favour midway through the third quarter as England lost possession through a misplaced pass and misfired shot. But similar to how they responded in the first quarter, the Vitality Roses reasserted themselves and hit back, denying their opponents from levelling as Neil defended from the front with a brilliant tip. South Africa regained possession and came on the offensive but as Msomi tried to drill the ball through to Maseko under the post, Williams stretched across to claim the intercept. Moments later, she followed this up with another fantastic intercept as England maintained their four-goal advantage going into the final 15 minutes.
For the final quarter, Jess Thirlby enlisted Jayda Pechova at goal keeper in place of Williams and Glasgow returned to goal attack whilst Allison and Carter swapped their centre and wing defence bibs. Meanwhile, Plummer called upon Boitumelo Mahloko, Ine-Mari Venter and Owethu Ngubane to add some extra impetus at both ends of the court. After taking six deflections and three gains in the first three quarters, Fadoju was brimming with confidence and in the final quarter she produced two more brilliant tips as England kept the visitors at arm’s length with their four-goal advantage. South Africa edged back in the final two minutes but as had been the theme throughout the game, the Vitality Roses wouldn’t let the SPAR Proteas build any more momentum and as Cardwell put up the final goal to extend the lead to three, England had the win sealed.
Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby commented: “We’ve got an incredibly, talented, exciting group that are already showing signs how to grind out wins, even when it might not be perfect but I’m really excited about the potential.
“We were very excited to be playing back in front of a home crowd. It felt like a long time coming and I think the girls have learnt how to energise and almost use the crowd to elevate their performance. We want to make the crowd proud and just embrace these moments.”
Captain Fran Williams added: “I think this test series has provided so many different challenges but also opportunities for us as a squad. We had to grind out a win from leading in the first game, try and chase a win yesterday and then, today, lead narrowly in a close game but get the result over the line in the final few minutes. I know the girls will carry so much forward from being able to win and grind this out.”
Vitality Roses starting seven: Fran Williams (GK), Funmi Fadoju (GD), Imogen Allison (WD), Amy Carter (C), Hannah Joseph (WA), Sasha Glasgow (GA), Eleanor Cardwell (GS)
Substitutes: Halimat Adio, Berri Neil, Jayda Pechova, Alicia Scholes, Olivia Tchine
South Africa starting seven: Phumza Maweni (GK), Karla Pretorius (GD), Jeante Strydom (WD), Refiloe Nketsa (C), Khanyisa Chawane (WA), Kamogelo Maseko (GA), Rolene Streutker (GS)
Substitutes: Boitumelo Mahloko, Bongiwe Msomi, Owethu Ngubane, Ane Retief, Ine-Mari Venter