Both teams exited the blocks at a pace and it was honours even for the majority of the first quarter. The new pairing of Cara Lea Moseley and Sarah Llewelyn offered plenty of energy and Dragons led midway through the period. However, it was a critical Mavericks turnover midway through the quarter that gave the visitors the impetus to take a 3-goal lead at the interval.
It was level pegging for the first couple of minutes of the second, Nia Jones vocal as ever in galvanising the players. However, not for the first time, Celtic Dragons were penalised for holding on too long, and gave the Mavs the ammunition to convert. Although Leila Thomas and Kelly Morgan were dogged in defence, Karyn Bailey was unflappable in scoring for the visitors in the second period. The match looked at risk of getting away from the players in green as concentration lapsed at critical moments.
Celtic Dragons had a mountain to climb in the second half and so coach Natalie Peperell sought to freshen up her team. Georgia Rowe replaced Cara Lea Moseley at GS, Amanda Varey came on for Kyra Jones at Centre and Suzy Drane came in for Leila Thomas with Nia Jones moving back to GD. Dragons were then able to increase their defensive pressure and disrupt the flow of the visitor’s game. Rowe found some good fluency at goal and thanks to a Suzy Drane interception, the Dragons began to make an impression on the Mavs defence with only a very late away goal giving the visitors an edge. However, the tone was set for the final quarter to come.
Despite being 15 goals adrift, the players in green had stopped the rot that had set in earlier in the match and returned to court eager to make a further impact. A few quick-fire goals showed the Dragons intent early into the period and cut down the deficit to 10. Another Suzy Drane interception proved a highlight as the Dragons played with no shortage of passion. It was however in the final few minutes that a further lapse in organisation undid some of the good work. The result had been written in the second period, but there was plenty of positives for the Dragons to take into next week’s Team Bath fixture.
Reflecting on the first round of the 2018 Vitality Netball Superleague, Celtic Dragons Centre, Kyra Jones said: “We started off really well, the first quarter was very good and then we had a bit of a lapse in the second. However, we came back in the third and fourth and did what we should have done in the second.”
Looking forward to next week’s home game against Team Bath, Jones said: “We always look forward to Team Bath. It is always a physical fight. We will have to be dogged and fight all the way through the 60 minutes.”
Player of the Match: Nia Jones, Celtic Dragons WD
Full time – Celtic Dragons: 49 Benecos Mavericks: 61
11-14 (11-14); 7-18 (18-32); 15-16 (33-48); 16-13 (49-61)
Celtic Dragons: CL Moseley, S Llewelyn, B Dyke, K Jones, N Jones, L Thomas & K Morgan [v/C]. Reps: S Bell, S Drane [C], M Powell, G Rowe & A Varey
Benecos Mavericks: K Bailey, A Travis, S Corbin [C], M Drayne, Z Everitt, L Keable & S Artman, Reps: S Collard, C Drakeford, G Marshall, K McColin & F Wells.