Netball Quad Series: Round One Alternative Review
There's only one word which can describe the Quad Series opening round of games in South Africa: breathless.
Fans all over the world gripped the edge of their seats as they were treated to two fast-paced, high-intensity and dramatic games.
Here Sports Gazette delivers its alternative round-up and review on Australia vs. New Zealand and South Africa vs. England.
South Africa 55-60 England
#SevenWordReview – Roses blossom in heat as Proteas wither
England required extra-time – the first ever in a Quad Series – to defeat a resilient South Africa outfit, who produced their best performance against a top three team since 2013. The experienced combination of Geva Mentor and Ama Agbeze kept the Proteas’ attack at bay, while Jade Clarke provided some fine feeds and the returning Helen Housby found her range to help the Roses to an 11-goal lead at half-time.
But eight unanswered goals at the start of the third, with Lindie Lombard posing a considerable threat, drew the Proteas level. Goal shooter Housby levelled with one minute left on the clock before the England defence won the ball back to send it to an additional seven minutes each way.
An incredibly edgy extra-time followed in which Housby capitalised on a late turnover to secure the win.
Australia 57-50 New Zealand
#SevenWordReview – Silver Ferns false start as Diamonds shine
It was a case of too little, too late for New Zealand as world no. 1s and reigning Quad Series champions Australia came out on top in a repeat of the last year’s decisive final match.
The Silver Ferns threatened an upset as they carried the momentum to close to within three in the first half of the final quarter but a slow start, in which they allowed the Diamonds to turnover on the first centre pass and net four unanswered goals, proved costly.
Australia won the first three quarters thanks to a combination of slick interplay and characteristic silky shooting, punishing any loose play. New Zealand goal shooter Bailey Mes and goal attack Maria Tutaia combined to good effect, with Mes missing just one shot all game, but they alone couldn’t carry the world no. 2s to victory.
Best Twitter reactions
One word, one emoji – England captain Ama Agbeze encapsulated the feeling among the entire team and fans across the country after an absolute nail-biter against South Africa.
😳 phew! @England_Netball 🌹🌹— Ama Agbeze (@amaagbeze) January 28, 2017
Play to the whistle – Australian Diamond Nat Medhurst, who has been rested for the Quad Series ahead of the Suncorp Super Netball season, posted a reminder that anything is possible in the classic rivalry.
Coffee and sleep deprivation – Despite the struggles with time difference for those watching in Australia and New Zealand, they had no issues in maintaining a sense of humour as co-author of Shine Netball and netball columnist of The Roar and Netball Scoop, Megan Maurice, proved.
Classy tribute – World no. 3s England were full of praise for their battling opponents.
What each team still needs to work on
Despite England and Australia securing opening-round wins, it’s safe to say that none of the sides delievered a faultless performance in the opening round of matches.
Given that the Quad Series is a stepping stone en route to the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2019 World Cup, now is the perfect opportunity for the teams to tighten up those weaker elements of their game as well as trying out new combinations and approaches.
England: Not throwing away a lead
The momentum was firmly with the Roses in the second quarter and they had a comfortable 11-goal cushion leading 28-17 at half-time. The Proteas looked like an entirely different side and netted eight unanswered goals at the start of the third quarter with England failing to adapt to the tactical changes, particularly the introduction of Lindie Lombard.
Fair play to the hosts for executing such a clinical performance, but ultimately that’s just unacceptable by England’s high standards and definitely provided a harsh wake-up call. Australia or New Zealand, especially with the likes of Caitlin Thwaites and Maria Tutaia in their ranks, may even have punished them more strongly.
Australia: Maintaining the intensity throughout
After outscoring New Zealand in the opening three quarters, there was a clear dip in performance at the start of the last quarter as the Silver Ferns dominated to close the gap and set up a nervy conclusion.
The Diamonds only took 50% of their chances in the first half of the fourth quarter, compared to 81% in the first half of the third, and New Zealand won the quarter 13-12.
The reigning world champions did manage to keep their cool to pull away at the end and secure what on paper looks like a comfortable seven-goal victory but they’ll certainly be looking to win all four quarters in their remaining two games.
New Zealand: Getting off to a strong start
Allowing the opposition to turnover on the first centre pass of the game is just criminal. Despite a spirited fight back from the Silver Ferns, this start undeniably contributed to their defeat. The intercept will have buoyed the Diamonds, who capitalised as Caitlin Thwaites got the first goal on the board, and rattled the world no. 2s.
An action out of character for Janine Southby’s side, who usually ooze composure and strength, they need to ensure this doesn’t have a psychological impact going into their next game against England.
South Africa: Holding their nerve
Staging a comeback from an 11-goal deficit is hugely impressive but, carrying the momentum from the third quarter, the Proteas were unable to take advantage after converting another turnover to take the lead midway through the final quarter. After drawing 48-48 and being forced into extra-time, it was a real edgy affair.
Even though South Africa got the deficit down to just two goals at one point, England were the side who kept composed to capitalise on a late turnover. It was a case of what might have been after South Africa scored just before full-time but the umpire ruled that centre Erin Burger’s knee had been over the line, and disallowed the goal.
Netball once again proved in spectacular fashion why it deserves more attention and acclaim on the international sporting stage.
Next up South Africa face Australia in Durban on Tuesday 31st January before the competition moves to English soil for the first time.
England clash with New Zealand in Liverpool – the home of the 2019 World Cup – on Thursday 2nd February and then the Series comes to a close with a double-header in London.
Stay tuned to Sports Gazette (@SportsGazette) for all the build-up, live action and reaction!