The stage couldn’t be set any better for the 2022 Quad Series Final, with England and Australia playing out a draw before their rematch tomorrow.
It sets up a thrilling rematch for the 2019 Quad Series, where England was the only side able to best Australia, winning by three goals.
The Roses are the only side to have defeated the Diamonds in a Quad Series since 2017, where the Silver Ferns claimed the spoils.
English captain Serena Guthrie spoke on the prospect of facing the same opponent again in 24 hours.
“That’s how you grow, by playing the best people in the world, the best teams in the world,” she told media post-match.
“That’s exactly what the opportunity was for us, it’s another crack to have a go and get out there. I’m so proud of the team and the fact that everybody came on had a really positive impact. It sets us up really nicely for tomorrow.
“We’re not there yet, we’re not perfect, we know that. The energy is bouyant in the group, but at the same time we know we were in that game at different times and different quarters.”
While the Diamonds led at all the breaks, a huge 16-10 final term from the Roses, led by Helen Housby’s 10 goals at 100 per cent shooting, got them right back into the mix.
She battled for large chunks of the game against NSW Swifts teammate Sarah Klau, who had an incredible five gains and four intercepts with just two contacts to quarter time.
Both sides were incredibly lively when not in possession, stealing back the ball, deflecting out of play, or rebounding both defensively and offensively.
But for the Roses on their home turf, even just a draw was more meaningful than they ever expected.
“It was one of my proudest moments as captain,” Guthrie said.
“Not because of the scoreline, but because we showed them who we were. And that’s all I really care about as the one who’s leader of this group.
“The fact that we’ve got girls out there like Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, I thought she had an excellent impact in that last quarter… taking players on.
“The step up, that’s not a given, none of it’s a given. We have to go out there and prove it to ourselves. No matter what happens now tomorrow, we’re preparing the best that we can.”
For the Diamonds, it was a disappointing ending in what could have been a 3-0 round robin.
Though they showed those signs of weakness throughout the game, they were coming in confident after handily defeating both South Africa and bitter rivals New Zealand.
But after a poor start, there was damage to undo throughout the remainder of the match.
“We let England in early, so… we’ve got to get back out there and start scoring off our first centre passes so we can keep accumulating the pressure,” coach Stacey Marinkovich said.
“This is what we’re over here to do, is to be playing games with that sort of intensity and that sort of pressure. There’s some vital lessons to be learned from it, so going into tomorrow’s game the girls will reflect on it.”
Having used a variety of player combinations in every third throughout the Series so far, the coach certainly has options to retool her game plan.
Jo Weston and Sarah Klau teamed up in circle defence (with Klau spending 50 minutes on court), Ash Brazill played just 15 minutes in wing defence, replaced by Kate Moloney, while the Sophie Garbin/Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood/Cara Koenen goaling pairings both receiving 30 minutes each.
“I think I’ve got a variety of combos we can certainly go to, we’ll see how the girls pull up,” Marinkovich said.
“For all intents and purpose, part of the reason to be over here is to see the versatility we’ve got. I think we saw the real strengths in the combinations we put out there.
“There was some changes we had to make on the fly, but you can just see the growth and strength across all of them when they’re coming on is improving each time.”
The game as it happened
Australia took the first centre pass, and nearly wasted it, with both sides fighting hard to retake possession. Jamie-Lee Price’s bullet pass to Cara Koenen spilled out of play, but the DIamonds were once again intent on holding up the Roses as much as possible.
England eventually worked it into the circle despite the best efforts of Sarah Klau and Jo Weston for the first two goals of the game. Serena Guthrie read the centre pass to make it three straight for the Roses.
It took some quick movement from Koenen and Steph Wood to break up the Roses’ circle defence, while Klau looked to making the most of her opportunity, finding another intercept.
Jade Clarke’s feeding of Eleanor Cardwell early was simply exquisite, giving her prime opportunity to go six from six under the post.Embed from Getty Images
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Struggling with Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown claiming deflections and rebounds in the circle, the Diamonds looked more to Liz Watson and Jamie-Lee Price feeding at circle edge, Wood taking advantage to position herself closer to the post.
It gave the Diamonds a chance to finally claim a sizeable lead, going up 7-10 with three and a half minutes to play in the first.
Koenen received a late contact call right before the whistle to make it a 9-12 lead for the Diamonds at the first break.
Kate Moloney came on in wing defence in place of Ash Brazill for the Diamonds, while Beth Cobden did the same for the Roses, with Guthrie moving into centre. Helen Housby and Cardwell traded bibs in the shooting circle.
The Roses started hot, the midcourt once again looking to get the ball back in their hands. It was Weston this time that came to life in circle defence, helping the Diamonds to a five goal lead.
Forcing more turnovers and feeding quickly through to Housby, the Roses bought it back to a one goal difference. Laura Malcolm came into the game at wing attack as scores levelled.
Any time the Diamonds would take a lead, the Roses would peg it back. The intensity wouldn’t fall for one second, with pressure on every pass. Australia led 19-23 at the half.
It was a new look shooting circle for the Diamonds to begin the second half, with Gretel Bueta and Sophie Garbin both coming on. Sunday Aryang joined the circle defence, while Geva Mentor did as well for the Roses.Embed from Getty Images
Housby and Cardwell’s combination continued working strongly, while the Diamonds were slow to start in theirs. Despite an intercept from Guscoth, Bueta worked right out of the circle and took it straight back.
Bueta’s long feed into Garbin finally found Mentor caught outside the circle, after her a strong start on court.
After a back and forth term, Klau came up clutch again, deflecting the ball out of play with seconds to go. The Diamonds led 32-38 once again.
The Diamonds defence once again led the way to start the final term, with Klau lively. Aryang tried to move up out of the circle, but her pass was turned over.
Housby was on fire to start the term, scoring three goals straight. The pressure was on from the Roses, forcing Moloney into a held ball. A long bomb from Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to Housby shortened the lead to one on the Diamonds’ centre pass.
It started to become end to end, with the intercepts dying off and both sides beginning to convert their centre passes, much to the delight of the Copper Box crowd.
Courtney Bruce made her impact into the game immediately felt, getting the better of Housby. Cardwell hit the long bomb, keeping the Roses in touch.Embed from Getty Images
Stacey Francis-Bayman got her first minutes of the Series with just three minutes to go.
With a minute and a half to go, there was just two goals separating the side, and Geva Mentor earned a crucial rebound to give the Roses another chance on the Diamonds’ centre pass. Cardwell made that one.
But Bruce put on the cape, charging at a pass towards the circle to turn it over. But another turnover got it back in the hand of the Roses, who slowly worked their way into the circle. Housby took the shot and sunk it for an incredible draw.
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