Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls surrendered an early advantage to England’s Roses, going down 45-55 in the first of three matches in the Vitality Roses Reunited Test Series at the Copper Box Arena in London yesterday.
The Sunshine Girls’ performance was lukewarm to say the least, as they held a narrow lead at the halfway point, but lost focus thereafter and the Roses duly capitalised to register their first win over the Jamaican outfit since the Netball World Cup in 2019.
Captain Jhaniele Fowler scored 40 of 41 attempts for the Sunshine Girls, with Shanice Beckford contributing the other five goals before taking up assignment as a wing attack.
Jo Harten, returning from a two-year plus absence, led the way for the Roses with 30 goals from 39 attempts, while player of the match Eleanor Cardwell scored 20 of her 22 attempts.
With the Copperbox Arena packed to its 7,500 capacity cheering the number three-ranked Roses on, the opening quarter was virtually a win for the number four-ranked Sunshine Girls, who have only lost three of their last 10 meetings against the opposition.
They were three goals down at 7-4 in the early exchanges, but the explosive defender Shamera Sterling proved a nuisance for the shooting duo of Harten and Helen Housby, forcing a number of turnovers on the Roses, which resulted in the Jamaican’s narrow 11-10 lead at the first interval.
England started the second quarter in the same vein, erasing the deficit five minutes in, before racing to a three-goal lead due to some unforced errors by the Sunshine Girls.
However, with Fowler’s presence inside the shooting circle, the Sunshine Girls again did well at the backend of quarter to turn things around to eke out a 26-25 lead at half-time.
During the break, Fowler expressed pleasure with her teams fighting spirit to rally twice, but lamented the high turnover rate which she said if corrected, would see her team coming our victorious.
But, it was not to be.
Despite gradually extending their lead in the opening stages of the third quarter, the Sunshine Girls again struggled with turnovers mid-court and that allowed the Roses to claw their way back.
The introduction of Cardwell contributed to the Roses’ dynamic shift in attack, while Ebony Usoro-Brown, returning two years after maternity break, and others held down the defensive end to see the hosts to a six-goal lead at 41-35, heading into the final quarter.
From there, it was no coming back for the Sunshine Girls, as a lapse in concentration and frustration, saw them failing to capitalise on their possession and the numerous errors allowed England to accelerate mid-way the final quarter and secure a 10-goal win.
The action will now move to Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham for the second and third games, scheduled for December 4 and 5.
Both teams are using the series as part of their preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year.