Header Image Michael Bradley Photography
With both teams having won a match each heading into the third test made for an exciting decider, with the winner taking claim to the Taini Jamison Trophy. It was a game of two halves, in particular, the second half in which the Roses outscored to Ferns 33-19 after trailing by 10 at the big break. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis lead the Roses from the front, pairing well with Eleanor Cardwell to use their strength and creativity to pull apart the Ferns defence end and eventually help them clinch the win 45-49.
The Silver Ferns were forced to make several changes to their game day 12 with Sulu Fitzpatrick, Gina Crampton and Tiana Metuarau all ruled out with injuries. This allowed Noeline Taurua the opportunity to start with yet another different starting seven, showcasing the depth of her side. Alternatively, England Coach Jess Thirlby kept the same side for all three tests, but gave different players the chance to start in each game.
A very messy first quarter showed the fatigue that was setting in after three games in five days, but Silver Ferns stepped it up a level. In the second quarter, the Silver Ferns defenders were not necessarily getting their hand to ball but were causing confusion and congestion that lead to several Roses turnovers which the Ferns side capitalised on, taking out a 10 goal lead at the halftime break. Kelly Jury was phenomenal at her more familiar role of GK, confusing the space and making it difficult for the Roses feeders to find George Fisher with the ease they had been finding her in the earlier tests.
Some key positional changes in the second half by Roses coach Jess Thirlby in the attacking end, proved pivotal in changing the momentum of the game, with the Ferns seemingly unable to find a combination to combat this. Surprisingly, it was with George Fisher on the bench that saw the Roses have the most success, with the strong hold of Cardwell at GS making it difficult for Jury to disrupt play, as she is so used to doing,
Serena Guthrie also benefitted from her move back to her more traditional position of WD, allowing the space for Jade Clarke to come on at C. With Laura Malcolm and Guthrie in C, both coming from WD backgrounds, they often sat behind their players and struggled to come forward for the ball, while also lacking confidence on the quick feed on occasion. Bringing on Clarke seemed to de-clog the attacking end, while still allowing Captain Guthrie to have a strong defensive impact on the game, which she did with three gains, the most of any Roses player on court.
The Ferns made fewer changes throughout the game, compared to earlier in the week, but took the opportunity to blood young defender Georgia Tong in the final quarter as Silver Fern #180. She was elevated from the development squad into the game-day 12 as a result of injury to Fitzpatrick, and managed to pick up a deflection in her five minutes on court.
In the end, it was the Roses who prevailed, being able to maintain the intensity for longer and not let their sloppy start ruin their confidence, as coach Jess Thirlby said, they had the capability to do it so they have to go out there and do it. While the defensive end seems settled, selection headaches aplenty exist in the attacking end with Helen Housby, Jo Harten and Nat Haythornthwaite still to join the side if they manage to make it to Australia for the upcoming test matches against the Diamonds.
While the Silver Ferns were without some significant firepower in each area of the court in this game, they will be disappointed that they let such a significant lead (10 points at half-time) drop. With many players getting a run through this series, no doubt Taurua has an extensive plan in place leading into the Commonwealth Games, but will still be disappointed her players were unable to execute the game plan and take the win in this test and series.
With neither team knowing how much international netball they’ll get to play ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, all court time is valuable in not only allowing players to show what they can do but also in giving the coaches an opportunity to come up against the best and start building towards the pinnacle event in Liverpool.