Thirlby upbeat despite Netball Nations Cup defeat to New Zealand

Natalie Haythornthwaite couldn't help stop the Silver Ferns

Jess Thirlby believes England more than matched New Zealand in their Vitality Netball Nations Cup opener at the Motorpoint Arena, but errors cost them in a 64-48 defeat.

The meeting was the first between the two sides since the Silver Ferns’ victory in the 2019 World Cup semi-final, and the visitors tasted success over their rivals once again in Nottingham.

Things were neck and neck for much of the first two quarters between the two sides, with the Kiwis edging it 28-25 at the end of the half.  

But the reigning world champions proved too much to handle as the game went on, eventually winning by 26 points, but Thirlby thinks England can be proud of their performance.  

“I think we gave a good account of ourselves in the first half and in moments in the third quarter we pulled it back but ultimately we made a few too many errors,” the England coach said.  

“I think we could have come off at halftime ahead but good credit to their defensive pressure, tactically I don’t think there was anything out there that we didn’t expect but I don’t think we were quite quick enough to recognise it.

“We were a bit hesitant sometimes in the attacking areas and defensively we got caught out a few times but we won enough ball, it was quite even going into halftime but fair credit to New Zealand in the second half.”

The visitors were strong defensively in the first quarter, as they put pressure on the Roses which forced a number of errors, as they ended the first period 15-11 to the good.

The lead was stretched as far as eight points at one stage in the second, before the introduction of George Fisher saw a flurry of goal scoring to leave the hosts trailing by three at the midway point.

New Zealand put their foot on the pedal after the interval, and extended their lead to ten points, with Maia Wilson clinical when given the chance to score as she helped extend the lead to 48-38.

As the game drew to a close England were guilty of trying to force the ball forward, but with little success, as New Zealand eventually saw the game out to secure victory in their opening match of the tournament.  

It was a momentous day for Amy Carter in Nottingham, as the Manchester Thunder star made her international debut, while Thirlby was also impressed by Fisher after her introduction.

“We know George can come off the bench and have an impact and the combination of her with Eleanor Cardwell gave them something to think about and gave us a bit of height in the circle,” the 41-year-old said.  

“I was pleased with that and it was great to let it run for a while, but some of these partnerships haven’t played full matches and when you’re playing the World Champions you can’t leave it out there for the whole game.”