Australia has retained the Netball Quad Series title after a thrilling one-goal victory over England, in a match that went down to the wire.
When all signs pointed to extra time, the Diamonds remained composed to win 47-46.
It was a tight opening quarter, with England challenging Australia across all thirds of the court. Australia played their starting seven used in the first Test against New Zealand, and were expecting to be pushed by the Roses.
Diamonds captain Sharni Layton said the team was prepared for the Roses to come out as strong as they did. The Diamonds last faced the Roses at Wembley, on 26 January 2013, where the Australians were narrowly defeated 51 to 49.
“England had that fight tonight of not wanting to be beaten again like they were against New Zealand and we had the history hanging over our head that the last time we played in this arena they had beaten us,” explained Layton.
“We knew that they were going to come out fighting, we knew they were going to come out firing. We definitely didn’t put our most consistent performance out there, but that was a credit to them putting us under a lot of pressure.”
The Diamonds led 13 – 9 into the first break, in their closest opening quarter margin for the Series.
Both teams opted to keep their starting sevens into the second term. England took the lead after five minutes of play in the second quarter; marking the first occasion the Australians had not held the upper hand in the Series.
Three quick successive goals saw Australia take back the lead, holding England at arms length. Despite the Roses outscoring the Diamonds 12 – 11 in the second term, the Diamonds went into the main break leading 24 – 21 goals.
Gretel Tippett was introduced into the game at goal attack for the third quarter, starting strong, confusing the Roses’ defence and taking the Diamonds to a seven-goal lead, the largest margin of the match.
A handful of missed attempts at goal by the Australians, paired with a consistent effort from the English saw the match tied at 32-all. With three minutes remaining in the third term Susan Pettitt was injected at goal shooter, in a new combination with Gretel Tippett. Although the change saw the Diamonds with renewed conviction, the Roses lead at the final break 36 – 34.
Looking for a change, Caitlyn Nevins was brought on at wing attack in the final quarter, with Jo Weston making her first appearance in the Quad Series at goal defence.
Momentum seesawed throughout the final quarter. The Diamonds led by up to five goals in the last term, however they were outscored in the final four minutes of the match by four goals.
The last passage of play saw England in possession of the ball with just one goal separating the two teams. The Australians were able to maintain composure under pressure. With ten seconds to go and the Roses with possession in their goal third, Sharni Layton took a well-timed intercept over Helen Housby, ensuring the game would not go into extra time.
“One of our focuses in the last few minutes was about staying in the moment and not getting caught up in the crowd and all of the noise. England was able to get a last minute intercept too,” said Layton.
“There was a lot of pressure in that last five minutes leading up to that moment (of Layton’s intercept) and I thought our girls handled that extremely well by playing the ball around.”
The Australians maintained composure by sticking to their game plan, according to the captain. “We were playing our game and not being pushed into the game they wanted us to play. We knew it was going to be physical, we knew our bodies were going to be hit, but we were able to get off the body and play the ball around, and in defence we were able to keep that connect and force a few high balls to come out on the fly.”
The Diamonds will return to their home states on Tuesday and continue preparations for the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season, commencing 18 February.
Official Result & Statistics
AUSTRALIAN DIAMONDS (47) defeated ENGLAND ROSES (46)
Australian Diamonds shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites 16/21 (76%)
Gretel Tippett 8/14 (57%)
Susan Pettitt 23/27 (85%)
England Roses shooting statistics
Helen Housby 26/33 (79%)
Kadeen Corbin 19/28 (68%)
Natalie Haythornthwaite ½ (50%)
Australia starting seven – GS: Caitlin Thwaites, GA: Susan Pettitt, WA: Paige Hadley C: Kim Ravaillion, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: April Brandley, GK: Sharni Layton
England starting seven – GS: Kadeen Corbin, GA: Helen Housby, WA: Chelsea Pitman, C: Jade Clarke, WD: Beth Cobden, GD: Ama Agbeze, GK: Geva Mentor
Match MVP: Geva Mentor (England)
Photography: Getty Images