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Brilliant Blue and Gold tame Dragons

Team Bath Netball will go into their first home of the 2018 Vitality Superleague season this week on the back of two away wins after recording an impressive 54-35 victory at Celtic Dragons on Monday.

The Sitec-sponsored Blue & Gold won three of the four quarters and drew the other as they overcame spirited opposition from the Welsh franchise to continue their 100 per cent start to the season.

As in the opening match at Team Northumbria, all 12 match-day squad members were able to take to the court and gain more valuable game time ahead of Friday’s sell-out meeting with Surrey Storm at the Team Bath Arena (7.30pm).

Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Superleague Head Coach, said: “It was a good win and a comprehensive one in terms of the scoreline but we had to work for it. We played Wales twice during pre-season and the Dragons side make up the bulk of that team, so we knew what they were about and they knew what we were about.

“You want to get the early wins under your belt to build some momentum and everyone got on the court, so we were able to try out different combinations which was very pleasing. All the players who came off the bench had a real impact.

“Jess [Thirlby] and I are very aware of the strength in depth this squad has and what a difference each player can bring in terms of our style. It also builds confidence in the squad as it shows how much trust we have in them and the combinations as coaches.”

Team Bath started Monday’s match with the same seven that had lined up against Northumbria and, as in that game, it was the hosts who edged ahead first. The Blue and Gold kept their composure, though, and great defensive pressure plus tremendous ball speed and movement in attack saw them take a 16-11 lead into the second quarter.

With Asha Francis on at GA, Team Bath piled on the pressure from the restart and forced Dragons into errors before capitalising on the turnovers with some awesome attacking play. Excellent decision-making right across the court helped stretch the advantage to 27-18 at the interval.

Team Bath took the opportunity to ring the changes for the third period with Jess Shaw coming on at C, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis at WA, Tash Pavelin at WD and Kadeen Corbin reintroduced at GS. All slotted in seamlessly, maintaining the ball speed and defensive discipline to keep a Dragons fightback at bay.

With Rachel Shaw and Imogen Allison back on court for the final three minutes, the Blue and Gold were able to push the lead back out to ten before Dragons scored late on to make it 36-27 going into the last quarter.

A fantastic centre-pass intercept from Layla Guscoth set the tone for an inspired final 15 minutes from the visitors, who forced multiple turnovers that were converted with speed and flare by Corbin and Drakeford-Lewis, who both had 100 per cent shooting stats for the quarter.

Paige Reed came on at GA for the last six minutes and nailed her first shot to bring up the half-century before Team Bath wrapped up an impressive victory over a strong Dragons side.

Their next opponents are a Surrey Storm side who lost to defending champions Wasps on the opening day before being edged out 64-62 in extra-time by benecosMavericks on Monday.

“Storm will be hurting after that defeat and will be determined to get their first win of the season,” said Stembridge.

“We played Storm in pre-season and won by one goal, which was a good experience for us. They have had a bit of a reshuffle since last season, bringing in quality players like Jo Trip from Lightning and South African international Sigi Burger, but they have also retained instrumental players like captain Katy Holland and Georgia Lees.

“I know it sounds clichéd but with every team in this league, you have to make sure you are prepared appropriately and you have to bring your A game.

“We are all very excited about being back in front of our home fans and cannot wait to hear that incredible noise from the best crowd in the league once again.”