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Netball Quad Series: Tamsin Greenway analyses final between England and Australia

England's Vitality Roses lost the Netball Quad Series final against Australia 58-46 having been a goal ahead heading into final quarter; Sky Sports expert and Scotland head coach Tamsin Greenway examines how the Roses let their lead slip in the final quarter

England face Australia in the final of the Quad Series
Image: Jess Thirlby's England outfit finished the Netball Quad Series with a tough loss in the final

After an unexpected finish to the final of the Netball Quad Series, Tamsin Greenway analyses the contest between England and Australia and gives her perspective on a tough last quarter for the Roses.

The Roses' 48-48 draw with the Australian Diamonds on Tuesday was incredible and had England Roses fans on the edge of their seats. Fast-forward just 24 hours and the end of the final felt like an anti-climax from an England perspective.

For the first three quarters the Copper Box Arena was absolutely rocking; England were seemingly in control, winning by one and there was an enormous buzz and confidence in the air. However, the final 15 minutes hit the Roses hard, losing the quarter 18-5 and with it the game was over.

I don't think any of us saw it coming, which is why it's difficult to swallow for every English Rose player and fan. In stark contrast, the Australian Diamonds and their camp will be brimming with confidence after they stepped up another gear to take home the trophy.

England's Vitality Roses vs Australian Diamonds - Final

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 FT
England's Vitality Roses 14 13 14 5 46
Australian Diamonds 12 13 15 18 58

So, the big question for England, is just what happened and where did it all go wrong? Well, there are a few things to talk about here, including the mid-quarter substitutions, which I'll come to later.

England started the game exceptionally well and one of the things I wanted to see them do during this match was take the lead and keep it. We've not really seen them do this consistently over the past few months, instead we've seen great fight backs.

Whilst it's incredible to see England's never-say-die attitude during those moments, I did want to see the starting seven perform, hit the front early and then stay there. Early on in the final, the Roses did that and tactically, Jess Thirlby nailed it in the first quarter.

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England needed to be able get flat ball into Eleanor Cardwell, learning from the draw on Tuesday, when Sarah Klau had a field day. At the start of the final, Natalie Metcalf found depth and worked superbly to make the most of Cardwell's excellent timing and positioning.

The final of the Netball Quad Series
Image: The final two days of the Netball Quad Series saw England and Australia play each other twice

England also won a lot of ball. Layla Guscoth, who for me was in contention for player of the series, was exceptional and her work rate paid dividends. Guscoth and Geva Mentor caused Steph Wood and Gretel Bueta real issues to start with. Beth Cobden and Serena Guthrie were also allowed to run hard out the front of Paige Hadley and Liz Watson, and the Diamonds looked rattled.

England also seemed to be getting a lot of the 50/50 calls from the umpires. Of the two teams, Thirlby's players seemed more used to the style of the English umpires and took full advantage.

As the game went on I became more and more impressed with the Diamonds and specifically Stacey Marinkovich. The head coach made a big early call by taking Courtney Bruce off the court and putting Klau on. It's was a real game-changer for them.

I guess that's really when the red flags started to show for England. When the opposition changes personnel, you are looking for your players to adjust, adapt and find new ways to open up the game.

Eleanor Cardwell in action for the Vitality Roses
Image: The Vitality Roses will need to learn key lessons from their final loss to Australia

England were ahead and playing with confidence, they had the crowd behind them and looked strong, however they were still only two up at half-time.

Moving forward, England need to work out how they can push on from a position of dominance in a match. If they are in control on the board and playing the calls, how do they use that momentum to extend the score gap against the top nations?

What Quad Series revealed about top nations in Commonwealth Games year
What Quad Series revealed about top nations in Commonwealth Games year

Six months out from Commonwealth Games, the Netball Quad Series provided coaches with vital insights to key questions.

England continue to rely a lot on impact changes in the close games and this one was no different. However, I feel the fourth-quarter changes were a last roll of the dice, as by the time Eboni Usoro-Brown and George Fisher entered the game, they were just about to go five down.

After four huge early errors by key players, it was almost impossible for them to make the difference. The warning signs had happened much earlier in the game and will certainly need to be addressed.

Of course, after a match it's easy to say what might have worked better, especially when a quarter didn't go to plan, but I would have liked to have seen England stick with their seven. I still believe keeping a seven on court, adjusting them and helping them work it out, would be extremely useful for their development going into the Commonwealth Games.

Now, let's look at what Australia did in that last quarter, because it's important to highlight how they achieved their gear change.

Bueta brought more variety in the circle; she had 16 attempts in the first half and an incredible 25 in the second. She posted up in the back space more, exited out in different positions and added rolls and change of direction to the base line.

Gretel Bueta
Image: Gretel Bueta was named player of the series and had a storming final quarter against England

The Diamonds also used the back-up exceptionally well too and Jo Weston having time off to see what England's attackers were doing before re-entering, really helped. She made a major difference in that last quarter and England were stifled in that final attacking third.

Australia found space and rhythm; Hadley had a huge role to play in them being far more open in attack too. She found herself available entering the end third and was really confident in what she was prepared to let go.

The fact that the Australians had that gear to go to and have another six months of preparations leading into the Commonwealth Games is a frightening prospect for every other nation. They mean business, and the other teams will have to find some key match-ups for Bueta, Klau, and Ash Brazill in particular.

Australia secured the title with a storming final quarter
Image: The series victory marked a sixth Netball Quad Series title for the Australian Diamonds

For England now, there are a few things they need to focus on. Yes, they'll need to pick apart that last quarter but the Roses also need to pick apart other games when they fought back and won to see where they are getting themselves in to trouble in the first place.

Long term, Jess Thirlby is now going to have to decide who complements each other best and brings the style needed to combat the top teams heading into Commonwealth Games.

Jade Clarke, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Fisher, Cardwell and Laura Malcolm have all been effective impact players this series, so it's about which ones you trust to get you through the pool stage in top place.

Overall, the series was a really useful and positive experience for the Roses. They had no idea about the Australian Diamonds before it, given the Diamonds' lack of court time over the last two years, and now they know exactly what they're all about.

If the Diamonds are the benchmark, then at least England know they are very close. Also, they know what the challenges are and what they're going to be up against.

Every England fan and member of that squad would prefer this to have happened now as opposed to in a Commonwealth Games final. Six months is a very long time and there will be a lot of things that happen between now and July 29 when the Commonwealth Games start.

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