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England surge to series win over Sunshine Girls

England beat the Jamaica Sunshine Girls 63-59 in a fiercely-contested decider to close out a 2-1 series victory.

Having dominated the opening game in Manchester, the Vitality Roses were pegged back by the visitors at the Copper Box in the second of a compelling three-match series.

Jess Thirlby’s side, packed with Netball Superleague stars, rode the wave of a bumper home crowd to wrap up the series win.

Thirlby’s starting seven on Sunday had an accent on experience with Manchester Thunder captain Natalie Metcalf and Geva Mentor in from the start, in place of Alice Harvey and Chelsea Pitman.

Surrey Storm’s Layla Guscoth and Helen Housby shook off injury concerns to make the starting side.

England started quickly, some hard-fought turnovers earning them an early 7-5 lead that they extended to 20-16 after the first quarter.

The Sunshine Girls came storming back in the second quarter, with some sharp shooting from Jhaniele Fowler firing them into a one-goal half-time lead.

In the second quarter there was a popular first international cap for Elle McDonald of Leeds Rhinos.

The two sides went goal-for-goal in the third but the hosts got on top late in the ‘Championship’ quarter and never looked back.

It was a confident, resilient performance that sees the Roses head to this month’s Quad Series in South Africa full of confidence. They face Australia in their Quad Series opener in Cape Town on 21 January, with South Africa and New Zealand lying in wait.

Captain Metcalf, named Player of the Match, said: “To be able to secure the series at home, I’m really proud.

“It hurt us to lose the series against Australia. This is a massive win because Jamaica are an incredible team, it’s always so hard playing against them. This was an opportunity to test ourselves against them before the World Cup and it’s been crucial.

“We wanted to set our intentions for 2023 and play good netball. It’s a long road to the World Cup, we need to keep building and get everything going for the World Cup.”

Player of the Series Guscoth added: “Everyone made a massive contribution to the series. We just wanted to win and I’m so glad we managed to do that with a great last game.

“We have let massive ten-goal gaps appear and we just couldn’t afford to do that. The third quarter was really good. We were so disappointed to let the second game slip, there was a great energy and we want to come here for the crowd and get the win.”

Earlier England Thorns beat Future Roses 64-42, the second of two excellent curtain-raisers at the Copper Box.

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