England 57-64 Jamaica
The England Roses lost out to Jamaica 57-64 in the final game of their three-match Vitality Netball International Series on Sunday evening in Coventry.
A capacity crowd of over 4,000 fans packed into the Ricoh Arena and following an astonishing eight-goal turnaround at three-quarter time, they were hoping England would finish the job and seal a Series win.
However, the Sunshine Girls handled the pressure better and overwhelmed England in the final few minutes to eventually win by a comfortable seven goal margin.
After making such a positive response on Friday evening, England named the same starting seven which brought them back into the Series.
The first goal of the match went to the familiar face of Jhaniele Fowler-Reid who found space under the post to get the visitors off the mark.
An early contact on Kadeen Corbin allowed Jo Harten to net and following an Eboni Beckford-Chambers intercept, Harten pushed the Roses ahead.
A couple of contact calls on Stacian Facey allowed England to move the ball from the attacking third line to underneath the post. England were bouncing.
It has been a Series which has seen momentum swing regularly and within moments Jamaica were level at 5-5 after the Roses failed to connect with a pass in the final third.
Worse was to come for the home side as Serena Guthrie was forced off the court after taking a heavy tumble, Natalie Haythornthwaite coming on in her place.
The England press across the court was immense. Beth Cobden, Beckford-Chambers and Haythornthwaite all disrupting moves forward from the Sunshine Girls.
With the clock running down on the first quarter, the ball was moved into the opposition circle but Harten was adjudged to have released the ball too late and the Roses had to settle for a 15-14 lead.
As the second quarter continued goal for goal, the pressure started to mount with the game back on centre-pass following an early goal from the visitors.
A fierce feed down the left side for England failed to connect and although Shanice Beckford missed, Fowler-Reid was on hand to rebound and give Jamaica the advantage.
The lofted ball into the GS was working well for the Sunshine Girls and Beckford-Chambers was replaced by Stacey Francis as England freshened things up.
Shamera Sterling started to make an impact on proceedings and came away with more turnover ball as the England passing game started to look fragile.
A six-goal gap saw Guthrie make a return to the court and she made an instant impact with an attacking intercept as England closed the deficit to 29-33 at half-time.
The third quarter started well for the Roses as Corbin found Jade Clarke with a majestic bounce pass, the feed was returned and the crowd were on their feet to celebrate.
However, the option of Fowler-Reid was proving fruitful for the Sunshine Girls and their creative flair saw them quickly pull into an eight goal lead.
A change in defence saw Agbeze switch to GK with Beckford-Chambers moved into GD and Francis slotting taking over at WD.
England needed something to fall their way and eventually good defensive pressure saw Corbin come up with the ball in the mid-court.
Harten slotted the turnover home and turned to roar her team mates on. Beckford-Chambers responded with another steal off Fowler-Reid and this allowed Guthrie and Harten to exchange passes for the shooter to reduce the gap further.
Another tip from Beckford-Chambers gave the Roses the chance to level. Clarke spotted Harten in the circle and fired a sublime long-range feed in. Amazingly, as the quarter ended England had tied things up at 46-46.
The Ricoh Arena was shaking as the crowd stomped their feet in appreciation of the incredible comeback.
The teams returned and it seemed fitting that with these two sides who had been so closely matched, would need the final fifteen minutes to separate them.
Unfortunately, for the majority in attendance, Jamaica were first to create a mini-gap.
A pair of turnovers kept the sides locked together but a misplaced feed into the circle and an attacking contact gave the Sunshine Girls an opportunity to pull ahead.
Despite some immense pressure from the England defence, every tip, deflection and chance fell the way of our visitors.
With Beckford and Fowler-Reid remaining remarkably calm, the advantage grew and the Series was lost.
England pushed forward in search of a break in the closing minutes but the Jamaican wall could not be broken down for a second time in the match.
A last minute Harten effort gave the amazing home support one last chance to scream their delight but ultimately it was disappointment for the Roses.
Roses starting 7: GS - Harten, GA - Corbin, WA - Guthrie, C - Clarke, WD - Cobden, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK - Agbeze
Jamaica starting 7: GS – Fowler-Reid, GA - Beckford, WA – K.Williams, C - Thompson, WD – V.Williams, GD - Facey, GK - Sterling
photos Janos Schmidt