Tracey Neville’s England side showed bags of promise in a series against Australia, but were ultimately outshone by the best the world has to offer.
The third and final match started with Australia’s Elizabeth Watson taking the first centre pass and England made the first breakthrough defensively.
Pressure from the Roses defence forced a stray pass from Gretel Tippett to fall for Jade Clarke. Eboni Beckford-Chambers was called for contact shortly after, taking the score to 2-all.
Both teams started with caution, careful not to give anything away, and Caitlin Thwaites was determined to rebound her own missed shot to take it to 4-3 to Australia.
At the other end of the court, Helen Housby grabbed hold of a loose ball after Rachel Dunn missed a shot under the post to make the score tied once again.
Sharni Layton was more than happy to make herself the villain with England’s Copper Box crowd after taking a cross court interception to turn the ball over for Australia and take the lead.
In the blink of an eye, Australia advanced their lead to three and took it to 10-7.
Despite another amazing trademark interception from Ama Agbeze, Australia regained possession in centre court to keep their three-goal advantage.
After a turnover and offside from the restart for the Diamonds, England pulled it back to within one goal at 11-10, but after a long-range miss from Rachel Dunn the score advanced to 12-10 to Australia.
Beckford-Chambers and Agbeze mounted the pressure on the Australian attack and after some back and forth with possession, Housby netted, shortly followed by Dunn to tie the score at 12-all.
The Roses kept the Diamonds within their sights to finish the quarter at 13-all.
Australia made a significant change for the second quarter, bringing Caitlin Bassett on at goal shooter.
The Roses had the first chance to start the quarter with momentum, but Sasha Corbin was pulled for breaking, giving Australia a two-goal cushion after their centre pass.
Housby, as reliable as ever, made sure the Roses kept it within two. Layton then leapt above the England shooters to take an athletic interception only for Agbeze to do the same at the opposite end of the court.
Some more changes of hand with ownership of the ball left the committed vice-captain Jade Clarke to force an out of court from Australia.
The score stayed at 19-16 to the Diamonds for a significant period of time and the captains were called over to the umpire after a few incidents of contact from both sides.
Australia broke the deadlock to make it 20-16 and the score quickly advanced to 22-16. That was the score when the Diamonds called an injury time-out to replace Tippett with Natalie Medhurst.
It was Medhurst who misplaced her pass to give England the opportunity to move the score on to 22-19.
Australia weren’t prepared to let go of their lead as they held on to a score line of 25-20 with a minute to go and bagged another to finish the half 26-20 up.
Australia took the first centre of the second half, only for Clarke to force Australia out of court once again.
England moved the score on to 23-26 after an uncharacteristic miss from Bassett under the post but some incredible pressure from the Australia defence helped them move their lead to 30-24.
A nasty collision for Roses captain Sara Bayman forced England into a change, bringing Laura Malcom into wing defence and moving Clarke out to control the middle of the court at centre.
Some mix-ups in the Roses attacking third allowed Australia to quickly move their lead on to 39-26 in the blink of an eye.
Tracey Neville called time to bring Bayman back on at centre, move Clarke back in to wing defence and bring Natalie Haythornthwaite into wing attack, replacing Corbin.
Agbeze was once again the catalyst for change, taking an interception and helping England move back within ten.
But Australia’s class shone through, leaving them the stand-out leaders at 43-31 with just one quarter to go.
The only change at the start of the last quarter was Australia bringing Ashleigh Brazill in at centre, but it was England with first centre pass and the first goal of the final period through Dunn.
The crowd was rocking as Housby slotted home a long range effort, making the score 44-33 but a stray pass from Housby to Haythornthwaite at 47-33 meant Australia took a 15 goal lead with 11 minutes to go.
An ambitious feed from Haythornthwaite, meant for Dunn, hit the rim of the net leaving Housby to retrieve and score from.
An injury time out call from Diamonds captain McMeniman gave Neville the chance to bring Lindsay Keable into the defence for the first time this series to rapturous applause from the crowd.
Shortly after, Hannah Joseph was given her first ever cap for the Roses as Haythornthwaite called an injury time out. Joseph’s first task was to neatly feed Dunn for Housby to then slot home.
The England crowd at the Copper Box were in full voice until the very end of the match, supporting their Roses all the way.
Captain Bayman was sent off after a contact left her on the floor in the Diamonds shooting circle with the score at 53-41 with less than two minutes to go, leaving the Roses to finish the game with six players.
The Australian side ended the game 55-41 winners, gaining a 3-nil whitewash but Ama Agbeze picked up the Vitality Player of the Match for England after another stunning performance.
Tracey Neville has taken this series to blood young talent against the best side in the world and the support for the Roses inside the Copper Box was louder than ever.
England’s Vitality Player of the Series – Ama Agbeze
Australia’s Vitality Player of the Series – Sharni Layton
Roses starting 7: GS – Dunn, GA – Housby, WA – Corbin, C – Bayman, WD – Clarke, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Agbeze
Diamonds starting 7: GS – Thwaites, GA – Tippett, WA – Hadley, C – Watson, WD – Simpson, GD – McMeniman, GK – Layton
Report courtesy of England Netball