Severn Stars edged past Team Northumbria 47-43 in an enthralling encounter to secure back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Stars had taken a commanding 41-34 lead into the final quarter, but saw that quickly disappear under relentless pressure from their opponents, who brought the score back to within just one point with three minutes remaining.
But Stars held their nerve and closed out the game, on Saturday (April 21), to secure a victory that lifts them to sixth in the Vitality Netball Superleague standings.
“I’m delighted to have the points on the board. It was a really great game,” said Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird.
“We knew it was always going to be a tough game. We’ve had three players who’ve just flown back from Australia and we’ve had a long journey up to Newcastle.
“You could see that there were some heavy legs out there, but I’m just really pleased that, under pressure, we actually pushed on to get the win, which we haven’t done in the past.”
After a cagey start to the opening quarter, at the Sport Central arena in Newcastle, Stars’ patient and composed build-up play allowed them to carve out an early 8-4 lead.
Team Northumbria threatened to hit back midway through the quarter, when goal shooter Chiara Semple found her rhythm to help edge the hosts back to within two points.
Stars seemed to regain control of the game though, with goal shooter Eleanor Cardwell and goal attack Maryka Holtzhausen combining to help Stars restore their four-goal lead.
The hosts, though, stormed from behind in the final few minutes of the quarter, with the irrepressible Semple firing Team Northumbria 13-12 in front in the final seconds of the opening 15 minutes.
Sophie Carter replaced Laura Rudland at wing attack at the beginning of the second quarter as Stars looked to halt the momentum of the resurgent hosts.
But Team Northumbria carried their momentum into the second quarter and extended their lead to four goals as they continued to dominate.
Stars managed to keep pace with the hosts, though, with creativity from Holtzhausen allowing Cardwell to keep Stars within just two goals of the visitors for much of the quarter.
Stars vastly improved as the quarter went on and managed to level the game after Cardwell’s incisive pass found an unmarked Holtzhausen, who netted to make it 24-24 with less than two minutes remaining.
Momentum had swung firmly in the visitors’ favour and Stars made the most of their increased possession, with Cardwell netting twice in the closing 60 seconds of the half to give Stars a 26-24 lead at the half-time interval.
A nervy start to the third quarter saw Stars race to an early four-goal lead.
The team’s defence, including England’s Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Jodie Gibson at wing defence and South Africa’s Phumza Maweni at goal keeper, managed to stifle Team Northumbria’s attacking trio, helping them take control of the game.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end, Cardwell and Haltzhausen, supported by the lively Carter, fired Stars into a healthy 41-34 lead at the end of the third quarter and Stars looked to be heading for a comfortable victory.
But Stars soon saw their lead evaporate as Team Northumbria came out flying in the fourth quarter, limiting them to just four goals in the opening 10 minutes, before bringing the score back to within just one goal in a nail-biting final three minutes.
But Stars rallied with the ever-reliable Eleanor Cardwell netting twice in the final two minutes to help Stars claim a 47-43 victory.
Head Coach Bird said that she was happy to see her side record a second victory in a row.
“It’s crucial for the confidence of these girls going into the next phase of the competition,” she added.
“It’s all about that momentum. We knew this would be a hard game and there are no easy teams in this league so to get a win in this first phase of the campaign is really good.”
Tickets for the next home game against Loughborough Lightning on Saturday 28 April (6pm) are available at www.severnstars.co.uk.
Photo credit: Stephen Batey