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England win first series under Thirlby over South Africa

Haythornthwaite captained England to victory in their second match in South Africa // Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Jess Thirlby and the Vitality Roses can breathe a sigh of relief after securing their first Test series win under their new coach in South Africa but captain Natalie Haythornthwaite says her side do not want to settle for anything less than a full series sweep.

After winning the first match in extra-time on Friday evening, the Red Roses prevailed 59-53 in the second to secure the series against the Proteas – the side they beat to bronze at this summer’s Netball World Cup in Liverpool.

In theory the job is done but according to Haythornthwaite, winning Sunday’s dead rubber is crucial for Thirlby’s new-look Roses to start their cycle on a high.

“Obviously we came out to do this. We wanted to win back-to-back games,” said Haythornthwaite.

“There’s another game tomorrow. We want to seal the deal and get all three done.

“I feel so fortunate and grateful to be in this position alongside so many great girls in our team.

“The girls did awesome out there. I thought Kadeen Corbin was incredibly controlling and Stacey Francis was solid at the back.”

It was the Roses who got off to the more promising start finishing the first quarter 16-12, but South Africa reduced the deficit to 29-27 by the half-way point with Sigrid Burger coming on to add a new dimension to the Proteas’ shooting circle with a 100% conversion rate.

The game-changer for the Roses was the introduction of Georgina Fisher after the break, the Saracens Mavericks shooter showing her dominance in the other circle to ensure the visitors kept a two-goal lead going into the final quarter.

Fisher continued to impress to steer England six points clear to win the game and while Thirlby was impressed with her newcomers’ performances, she doesn’t want to make any changes tomorrow which could jeopardise a 3-0 series sweep.

 I want to respect that third game performance,” said Thirlby.

“I thought the changes had a great impact tonight. I think Laura Malcolm did a good job at wing defence moving the ball through the court very nicely. Georgina Fisher was a great entry too.

“I would like to think that I can test some other combinations tomorrow, but this isn’t about just entering everyone off the bench.

“The thing I’m most pleased with is the improved performance. Yesterday was a bit more of a gutsy-gritty performance but today we were tactically a lot smarter, and that’s what we spoke about overnight.”