England’s Roses secured an emphatic victory over Jamaica and their first series win against the Sunshine Girls since 2013. From the blow of the first whistle Jess Thirlby’s side romped to victory, using the full depth of the bench to reinforce their Commonwealth Games winning credentials ahead of the Birmingham 2022 challenge.
Last week’s sluggish start by England was cast into distant memory as the Roses burst emphatically out of the blocks. Eleanor Cardwell, rewarded by Thirlby for the force of impact she made in the first Test victory, continued to wreak havoc on the Sunshine Girls’ star-studded defence.
A rejection by Jamaica’s world-class defender Shamera Sterling on the Manchester Thunder player at 10-4 was a sharp reminder to the crowd of what the Jamaicans are individually capable of when given space, but it did little to dent either Cardwell or the Roses’ momentum. Down in Jamaica’s attacking end, a starting seven changed by Connie Francis struggled to penetrate.
All 1.98m of Jhaniele Fowler was efficiently neutralised by the iron-cast partnership of Eboni Usoro-Brown, Layla Guscoth and Beth Cobden. An on-the-buzzer goal from the circle’s perimeter by Jamaica’s skipper closed the quarter a whopping 21-13 in England’s favour.
A visibly fired-up Jamaica entered the second quarter determined to undo some of the damage inflicted on them in the first 15. Sterling, now in at goal keeper to try to answer the Sunshine Girls’ Cardwell problem, made an impression. Two errant goals off the bat by Jo Harten and a more efficient Jamaica forced Thirlby into her first change. Helen Housby replaced the shooter.
As the Cardwell-Housby connection oiled up England rediscovered their first-quarter form. Jamaica, lacking in execution with 12 unforced errors to England’s five, burnt out and England went into the break the sharper and more authoritative side.
A 16-goal advantage in the hosts’ favour heading into the third was quickly extended to 20 by En gland as Jamaica’s error count headache rumbled on. Buoyed by a score-line showing her seven’s dominance Thirlby turned to her bench and gave those that had been responsible for England’s lamentably slow start last week a chance to redeem themselves.
With tested combinations the key in Thirlby’s eyes to England walking away in Birmingham back-to-back gold medallists next year, the Roses’ head coach did not hesitate to throw all her players under the cosh. The up-and-coming Sophie Drakeford-Lewis was tried at wing attack and England’s most capped player, Jade Clarke, put in at centre.
As the klaxon heralded the 66-47 win the home crowd roared. With back-to-back series wins, first against the world champions, New Zealand, away on their turf and then Jamaica here on home soil, the Roses have never dared to look so formidable. Thirlby, however, was reticent to start the revelries just yet: “I’m not the kind of coach that gets too carried away too soon,” the Roses’ head coach said after her side’s triumphant win, “so we’ll quietly celebrate the series win this evening and get ourselves ready for tomorrow.
“To get a series win against both New Zealand and a series win against Jamaica back here is an incredible achievement and not one that has been done in such a short time frame by any England team so it certainly helps to build confidence and that is an important part of that jigsaw heading into a major tournament.”
The three-Test series will conclude on Sunday with the final match taking place once again under the lights of Nottingham’s Motor Point Arena.