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Vote for Sky Sports Vitality Superleague Player of the Season

The shortlist is in for the Sky Sports Vitality Netball Superleague Player of the Season and Sky Netball have whittled it down to five of the league’s shining stars.

Loughborough Lightning’s Ama Agbeze, Manchester Thunder’s Sara Bayman, Team Bath’s Karla Mostert, Surrey Storm’s Sophia Candappa and Hertfordshire Mavericks’ Sammy Wallace are all up for the prize.

You can vote for your Player of the Season on the Sky Sports website here: http://www.skysports.com/netball/news/12415/10248613/vote-for-sky-sports-vitality-superleague-player-of-the-season

bayman

Thunder narrowly beat Dragons

Manchester Thunder took a narrow victory over Celtic Dragons on Saturday as they won 54-51.

Dragons fought right until the end and almost shocked the 2014 champions, only losing the second quarter – they drew the first and third and won the fourth.

Read the Manchester Thunder match report below:

Manchester Thunder laboured to a three goal win over Celtic Dragons in Cardiff.

Thunder displayed patches of fluid and dominant form but they failed to make it count and they only out-scored Dragons in one quarter.

It was a lacklustre and ultimately disappointing performance from the Black and Yellows and they will be relieved to leave Wales with a win.

Coach Dan Ryan expected more from his players, especially with consistency in all four quarters.

“Our focus going into the game was to be as clinical and consistent as possible as we haven’t won four quarters for a couple of weeks now and we were really conscious of winning all four today but it didn’t work out that way, which is pretty disappointing,” he said.

“We made a lot of basic errors on our decision making and we played into their hands and kept giving them opportunities. We didn’t learn from those mistakes and they kept happening. We need to rectify it as top ranked teams will punish us.”

Eyebrows were raised before the first whistle with coach Dan Ryan’s team selection. He chose Natalie Haythornthwaite as his shooter and dropped Helen Housby to the bench, with Kathryn Turner instead chosen to partner her in attack.

On the decision to play Haythornthwaite at shooter, Ryan said: “I’ve always been conscious to change the line-up so that does take away from continuity.

“Nat has been out at wing attack for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to get her back in a focused shooting role – she’s short and dynamic and camp play the circle well. I think she did some really good stuff for us in there.

New Zealand import Liana Leota was brought straight back into the team after two games out rested and it looked like an experimental and exciting attacking front line in equal measure.

Ryan’s gamble paid off to some extent, with Thunder starting with intent but they tailed off near the end of the opening quarter and the sides went in level at the break.

There were moments of personal brilliance from the Black and Yellows, with Sara Bayman – who was named player of the match, constantly probing and working to control the momentum of Thunder’s play.

It was a true captain’s performance from the England star. Ryan added: “She was solid across the board in defence and attack and she came up with key intercepts when Dragons were challenging or we were trying to push on.”

Ryan put faith in in-form Ellie Cardwell for the second half and despite doing little wrong, she was sacrificed for the more familiar shooting pairing of Helen Housby and Haythornthwaite in the final quarter as he attempted to put the tie to bed.

Thunder worked hard to edge themselves in front on several occasions throughout the match, including a 10-goal advantage in the final quarter, but they failed to push on and sloppy errors allowed Dragons to carry on puffing in the hope of a famous victory.

It was an ugly win for Thunder and they will need to be far more clinical against Team Bath when they visit the Thunderdome next weekend, to secure the three points.

Manchester Thunder team huddle before the game

Thunder announce themselves as contenders

Away winners Manchester Thunder are now topping the Vitality Netball Superleague table after their win at Team Bath. Their post-match summary is below:

Manchester Thunder blew away early title favourites Team Bath, to announce themselves as serious contenders for the Vitality Netball Superleague.

The Black and Yellows ran out convincing 37-62 winners against an off-colour Bath. It was Thunder’s biggest win of the season so far, where they dominated across all areas of the court, from the very first whistle. Coach Dan Ryan was predictably delighted with his side’s showing against a team filled with international players. But he was keen to keep the win in perspective, especially with the next game coming so swiftly on Monday against Loughborough Lightning.

Reflecting on the performance after the match, Ryan said: “I don’t think many people would have predicted that scoreline. But the girls stuck really well to task tonight and their application was sensational. I’m really pleased by the level of performance from everyone that took to the court for us.”

Ryan selected Helen Housby (43/47 at 91%) as his player of the match, with the young England shooter part of a formidable attacking trio alongside Liana Leota and Natalie Haythornthwaite. “They stepped up to the level of intensity today against a quality side who are among the favourites to win the title, with an impressive backline, who are world-class, those three seemed to rise to the occasion,” he added.

But Ryan believes it was in defence where the game was really won, with Jamaican defender Malysha Kelly, who was the at the heart of a superb defence that restricted Bath to just 37 goals (including just six in the final quarter) in a physical and testing game.

He said of the Sunshine Girl: “Malysha was tenacious and feisty and she was a great anchor for us at the back. She might be shy and reserved but on court she’s an absolute competitor and it’s great to see that fire form her.”

Thunder rocketed into a five-goal lead from the outset, offering Bath very little opportunity to get on the scoreboard for the opening exchanges. And never looked like relinquishing their lead. They relentlessly pressed the Somerset-based side, who appeared shell-shocked by Thunder’s intensity and blistering pace.

The first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game, with Thunder audacious, sassy and inventive in attack and gritty, athletic and intelligent in defence. Coupled with solid support form the centre court, Thunder had Bath chasing shadows for large periods of the contest.

It was a bruising encounter throughout, but Thunder stood up to Bath’s physicality and refused to stray off task. Apart from a small period in the third quarter, Thunder outscored – and out-thought – their opponents. Bath’s uncharacteristic error-ridden display should not take away from Thunder’s ability to pick-off such a strong team at will.

Starting 7:
GK Kelly,
GD Gibson,
WD Malcolm,
C Bayman,
WA Leota,
GA Haythornthwaite,
GS Housby
Quarter score breakdown:
Q1 – 11-19
Q2 – 20-32
Q3- 31-44
Q4 – 37-62

Anna Stembridge

Anna Stembridge says players will learn from loss

Team Bath Netball Head Coach Anna Stembridge says her players will learn valuable lessons from Friday’s 62-37 home defeat to Vitality Superleague rivals Manchester Thunder.

The visitors got off to a flying start and never looked back as they maintained their 100 per cent record with a convincing victory, underlining their dominance by winning the last quarter 16-8.

Stembridge said: “Credit to Thunder in terms of the way they started and finished the game. It’s disappointing that the scoreline blew out in the final quarter – to lose it 16-8 was not good enough and a bad day in the office in that respect.

“We knew tactically what Thunder would do and we looked to counter that but they executed their game plan very well.

“But we can only grow from this kind of experience. The players are really disappointed but they will learn from this and move forward.”

Both teams went into the match – played in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,600 fans – with confidence high after winning their opening two matches. However, it was the visitors who made the brighter start and they quickly raced into a 5-0 lead.

It was three minutes until Team Bath were able to produce their first attack, finished by Chelsea Lewis, and they remained on the back foot for much of the opening period.

Thunder’s high-tempo approach and slick passing, combined with the unerring shooting of England duo Helen Housby and Natalie Haythornthwaite, saw them establish a commanding 17-6 lead.

Team Bath’s best spell of the period, including a great aerial feed by Rachel Shaw, saw them pull four goals back and Lewis scored right on the buzzer to close the gap to 19-11.

The hosts needed a strong start to the second period but instead it was Thunder who turned the screw with an unanswered run of nine goals, stretching their lead to 29-12.

Lenize Potgieter came off the bench to replace Lewis at GS and quickly found her range, scoring six times as Team Bath gave the vocal home crowd something to cheer.

Asha Francis also scored on the stroke of half-time but Thunder were still firmly in the driving seat as they led 32-20.

With Liana Leota and Sara Bayman providing some outstanding feeds to the attacking duo of Housby and Haythornthwaite, Thunder were able to increase the gap to 36-21.

However, Team Bath were much improved in the third period – both in attack and defence – and were able to provide a more consistent feed to player of the match Potgieter.

The deficit was 44-31 going into the final quarter but any hopes of a Surrey Storm-style comeback were dashed as Thunder pulled away once again to win by 25 goals in a match sponsored by The Royal High School, Bath.

Carter Jonas are Team Bath Netball’s property partner, Surridge are the Team Bath kit supplier and Skins provide the team with compression wear.

Team Bath will be looking to bounce back in front of their home fans on Friday (February 19) when they entertain Team Northumbria (7.45pm).

Ticket-holders for that match will have access to an exclusive coaching masterclass from Team Bath Netball Head Coach Anna Stembridge and Director of Netball Jess Thirlby, taking place from 6-7pm.

Tickets for that game, as well as the other remaining home fixtures, are available from http://www.teambath.com/events/ticketline/ or by calling 0844 888 4412.

Match stats

Team Bath Netball

Starting seven: GS: Chelsea Lewis; GA: Asha Francis; WA: Rachel Shaw; C: Mia Ritchie; WD: Claire Brownie; GD: Karla Mostert; GK: Eboni Beckford-Chambers. Bench: Lenize Potgieter, Amanda Varey, Jo Vann, Alana John, Sarah Penny.

Changes: Q2: Lewis – GS to bench, Potgieter – bench to GS. Q4: Francis – GA to bench, Shaw – WA to GA, Vann – bench to WA, WA to C, Varey – bench to WA, Ritchie – C to bench.

Team Bath Netball Superleague squad 2016: Eboni Beckford-Chambers (C), Samantha Cook, Claire Brownie, Shaunagh Craig, Asha Francis, Nicole Humphrys, Alana John, Chelsea Lewis, Karla Mostert, Sarah Penny, Lenize Potgieter, Mia Ritchie, Rachel Shaw, Amanda Varey, Jo Vann.

Manchester Thunder

Starting seven: GS: Helen Housby; GA: Natalie Haythornthwaite; WA: Liana Leota; C: Sara Bayman; WD: Laura Malcolm; GD: Jodie Gibson; GK: Malysha Kelly. Bench: Ellie Cardwell, Amy Clinton, Emma Dovey, Gabby Marshall, Kathryn Turner.

Changes: Q4: Gibson – GD to bench, Dovey – bench to GD.

Manchester Thunder Superleague squad 2016: Kerry Anne Almond, Sara Bayman (C), Amy Clinton, Ellie Cardwell, Emma Dovey, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Rebecca Hoult, Helen Housby, Malysha Kelly, Paige Kindred, Liana Leota, Laura Malcolm, Gabriella Marshall, Kathryn Turner.

Quarter scores (Team Bath first)

Q1: 11-19. Q2: 20-32 (9-13). Q3: 31-44 (11-12). Q4: 37-62 (6-18).