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“We just ran out of steam” said England head coach, Jess Thirlby, as Australia beat the Roses 58-46 in the Quad Series final, throwing away their chance at a first title. “It’s OK if it hurts,” she added.
It was a match of 60 minutes but all it took for the Diamonds to break English hearts was the last 15. The fighting spirit that had pushed the Roses to a draw not 24 hours ago was worryingly absent in the final quarter as Australia shifted into fifth gear leaving England stuttering in second.
The two sides picked up exactly where they left off and when the Diamonds looked set to take early ownership of the contest, England intervened. Bodies collided as the sparring sides went toe-to-toe, and blow-for-blow with cautions handed out liberally. Scrapping relentlessly for turnover it was the Roses that looked stronger; Eleanor Cardwell and Layla Guscoth winning their respective matchups to hand England the advantage.
When Sarah Klau entered the fray for Australia in the second quarter England’s attack turned to treacle. Holding firm, however, the Roses negotiated the oncoming pressure, frustrating the visitors in their refusal to fold. The score at half time had England leading Australia 27-25.
There was a renewed sense of purpose about the Diamonds, in the second half, who executed the kind of netball that has shaped their formidable reputation: hard, accurate and remorseless.
After losing the lead quickly in the final quarter England’s belief mutated to panic. At eight minutes to go, and four goals down, Thirlby rolled the dice but her substitutions did little against the swelling Australian tide. Errant passes and wayward shots from the Roses were the joy of player of the match, and player of the series, Gretel Bueta who punished the Roses shooting at 98%. Australia beamed as they blew the quarter out 18-5 sealing England’s fate and their sixth Quad series crown.
“In terms of being at the top table with the best teams in the world, you’ve got to be able to take it the wins and losses on the chin,” said Thirlby whose attentions now turn to this summer’s Commonwealth Games defence which will feature an avenging Australian side. Optimistic there was much to learn Thirlby said: “Whilst it hurts now it won’t be doing us any harm at all.”