World Champions Australia sneaked a 52-58 win over England in Liverpool


It was a topsy-turvy game, with the sides trading the lead throughout, but the Diamonds showed their class where it counted.

But England will be buoyed by their performance and captain Sara Bayman, who is leading the squad in the absence of rested Geva Mentor, is keen to focus on the positives ahead of the next game in the three-match series on Friday in London. “It was a really good performances and as far as losses go to Australia, it’s one of the better ones to take. We played really well and had enough of the ball to win the match and there are things we can definitely fix before the next match,” claimed the 31-year-old centre-courter. On walking her side onto court for the first centre pass, Bayman admits to feeling emotional.

Coach Tracey Neville didn’t use any of her bench players, something Bayman believes was because the Roses started well, something they were guilty of doing during the World Cup six months ago in Sydney. The Manchester Thunder skipper added: “Because we had a decent start maybe Tracey didn’t want to change it but the players on the bench will get an opportunity and this is a great chance to get out there and pay against the top team in the world.”

Bayman’s Thunder team-mate Helen Housby, who celebrated her 21 birthday on Tuesday, put in a solid performance, with an impressive 89 per cent shooting accuracy, proving she can perform on the big international stage against the top brass in her sport. “Helen had a huge game tonight and it’s massive for her to play well against the top teams because she is coming in and she will be our top shooter for years to come.”

It was a tight opening period, with the Roses forcing the first turnover. However, they failed to consolidate it and Australia made no mistake with there’s sneaking into a three-goal lead midway through the first quarter. But England kept on plugging, sticking to their combinations and forced the score to within one.

Housby, who celebrated her 21 birthday on Tuesday, was showing no signs of her indifferent form at the World Cup, netting some difficult and showing some real moments of class – notably with an athletic tip to keep the ball in play at the post. It was the catalyst to a period of dominance from the Roses. But the world number one team absorbed the pressure and used it to drive them past England score and ahead by four, 26-30 at half time.

The Diamonds picked up where they left off after the break, but England did not help themselves with basic passing errors. The game was calling out for fresh legs in the Roses camp, with England looking sluggish, especially in defence. But Tracey Neville resisted making any changes and the game simply drifted towards the three-quarter buzzer. England needed inspiration from somewhere and there were glimpses of it from the mid-court with senior players captain Sara Bayman and Partington-born Jade Clarke. And it took until the fourth quarter from Ama Agbeze to really announce herself into the game with a superb aerial intercept. It broke up Australia’s combinations and the Roses scored four on the bounce. It sparked the crowd into life as England sustained a real period of dominance. But it was too little too late, as Australia held on for the win.

Report by Denise Evans