The Roses golden girl, Jade Clarke, celebrated becoming the most capped England netballer with tributes before the match from friends and family. The celebrations continued as Clarke’s side went 11-5 up in the first quarter against the Commonwealth bronze medallists, but Jamaica ultimately prevailed.
Clever play in the circle from Joanne Harten and Kadeen Corbin put immediate early pressure on the Jamaican defence. With Clarke running the show in the centre, the Roses looked like a force to be reckoned with, ending the first quarter with a four-goal lead at 16-12.
After being so far behind within the first 10 minutes, goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid told her team: “We have this in us and we just have to show this on court,” in an attempt to boost her squad’s morale and attack.
The Sunshine Girls put their height to use playing a high game to aid their 6’8″ goal shooter, Fowler-Reid, causing havoc for the England defence. Within 10 minutes of the second quarter, Jamaica had drawn level at 26-26. By half time, they had overcome a six-goal deficit to lead the home team 27-31 after a buzzer-beater from the faultless goal shooter.
Coming back from half time, the visitors kept the pressure on England with four quick goals. With the defence struggling, manager Tracey Neville, bought Beth Cobden into wing defence and moved the captain, Ama Ambede out to goal defence to slow down the fast attacks. The Roses started the last quarter six goals behind at 43-49, and with the game still in reach the girls knew they had their work cut out for them.
England restarted strongly with an important turnover in the Jamaican attacking third, but could not capitalise as they lost the ball in scrappy play, which would also be the last momentum change in the match. Even with alterations to the England defence, they were no match against the highest scorer of the match, Fowler-Reid. The Roses lost the first international of the three-match series 49-66.
Afterwards England captain Agbeze said: “It’s been a long time since we’ve been at home. It’s been huge, this game was huge. We started well because of the energy and link to the home venue and crowd, [but] we just didn’t carry that on, which isn’t great.”
Fowler-Reid was awarded most valuable player of the match for her outstanding shooting throughout the night. Jamaica now look to take a 2-0 lead of the series when they play on Friday night in Manchester, but the Roses will be out in full force to try and level the series at one-a-piece.
More on the game here