History has been made at the Commonwealth Games with the English Roses claiming their first ever gold medal with a last gasp 52-51 win over the Australian Diamonds.
England had to deliver a winner on the siren against Jamaica just to make the gold medal match, and they did it again in a thrilling final on the Gold Coast.
Australia came in as heavy favourites, armed with a 45.5-goal average winning margin from their six preceding matches. In contrast, England had never contested a Commonwealth Games gold medal since netball was introduced in 1998.
England fought tooth and nail, controlled possession, pressed their defence and stroked home the match-winner in the final second of the game.
Turnovers hurt Australia, surrendering possession 19 times compared to just six in the semi-final against New Zealand. But those turnovers were largely built on the strong pressure of the English defence.
Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett paid credit to England for the win.
“I am gutted, it still doesn’t feel real,” she said.
“I think they were physical, they slowed us down … they did a really good job of smothering us tonight.
“It’s not failure to us and it’s not going to define us.”
The starting side for the Diamonds in the gold medal match was Caitlin Bassett, Laura Geitz, April Brandley, Susan Pettitt, Kimberley Ravaillion, Madi Robinson and Gabi Simpson.
The two sides both play a similar brand of one-on-one defence, with goals at a premium in the opening exchanges. The Diamonds and Roses went blow for blow in the first five minutes, with the score locked at 4-4.
Australia struggled to find the rhythm that has been the hallmark of their Games campaign, with four early turnovers including two footwork violations.
Simpson was busy in defence, but those turnovers allowed England to ease out to a 7-5 lead midway through the first quarter. The lead stretched out to three as the Roses’ intensity disrupted the Diamonds.
But Australia showed fight in the latter part of the quarter, stealing the lead back and taking a 14-13 advantage into the first break.
The Diamonds only had six turnovers in their entire match against New Zealand on Saturday, but turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter alone against England.
A couple of quick goals handed Australia a two-goal lead in the second quarter, but not for long as England immediately struck back.
It was a see-sawing quarter and when the halftime whistle went there was nothing separating them, locked at 25-all.
Coach Lisa Alexander injected Caitlin Thwaites, Courtney Bruce, Jo Weston and Steph Wood into the fray for the second half as the arm wrestle continued.
England’s pressure defence continued to rattle the Aussies, with the Roses moving out to a three goal lead – their biggest of the match.
But Wood came up clutch time and time again in the quarter, including the last two goals of the term which gave the Diamonds a 38-26 lead at the final break.
The lead blew out to four goals, but England reeled that in and stole the lead with two minutes to go. And they held their nerve to claim the historic win.