Wasps Netball fought off a brave Hertfordshire Mavericks team to secure a tense 51-47 victory in their home debut at the Ricoh Arena.
A crowd of 2,057 – including Wasps rugby players Kurtley Beale and Jimmy Gopperth – came out to see Tamsin Greenway’s side make history and bring top-flight netball back to the West Midlands for the first time in 10 years.
The win sees Wasps Netball sit in second place in the Vitality Netball Superleague table, ahead of a Midlands-derby with Loughborough Lightning on Saturday, 11 March (7:45pm centre-pass).
Wasps Director of Netball Tamsin Greenway said: “I’m really proud of how the players handled the occasion – handling their nerves in front of a big home crowd.
“The atmosphere was absolutely buzzing and it was fantastic to see so many families cheering the side on – it will live long in the memory for some time.
“It was a close game but a win is a win. I think Mavericks did some great defensive stuff to us today which made it hard for us to extend our lead.
“For the neutral the game was fantastic. We understand we aren’t quite where we want to be yet, but we are still winning which is great.
“There’s no doubt we have had a dream start to the season, but we have a big local derby coming up against a strong Loughborough side, and we’ll need that sort of atmosphere again to help us maintain our unbeaten run.”
The match opened with both teams’ defence forcing missed shots at both ends.
As the game settled down, Wasps wing attack Natalie Haythornthwaite was able to control the attacking third, feeding clinical attacking duo George Fisher and Rachel Dunn.
The impressive shooting display saw Wasps threaten to push out to an early lead, but the visitors kept in touch, closing the first quarter only one point off the pace at 13-12.
Mavericks continued to apply pressure in the second quarter, with star goal shooter Vicklyn Joseph troubling the Wasps defenders around the net.
Mid-way through the second quarter, Mavericks took their first lead of the game but a double-salvo from George Fisher gave Wasps a one point advantage at half-time.
The third quarter brought a change in attacking combinations for Wasps, with Haythornthwaite and Dunn forming a partnership – but the visitors stayed in touch with the home side.
The game was perfectly poised at 39-37 going into the final quarter but experienced goal shooter Dunn proved the difference as Wasps moved away to take their first home win.
Dunn stayed calm under pressure, putting on a shooting clinic to push Wasps’ lead out to four – assisted by player of the match Natalie Haythornthwaite – securing a 51-47 victory.
Tickets for Wasps Netball vs Loughborough Lightning on 11 March start from £10 for adults while under-10s go free, can be purchased from www.waspsnetball.co.uk/tickets.