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Tuaine Keenan

Northumbria pick up first three points

Team Northumbria have picked up their first three points of the 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague season.

In front of a home crowd, and the Sky Sports cameras, Te Aroha Keenan’s side beat Yorkshire Jets 48-44.

Read on for the Northumbria match report:

Team Northumbria snapped a four-game losing streak to climb off the bottom of the Netball Superleague and kickstart their season in style.

Te Aroha Keenan guided her previously winless roster to a 48-44 victory against fellow strugglers Yorkshire Jets.

And it was the visitors who remained rooted to the Superleague basement following a fixture neither team could afford to lose.

TN recovered from a shaky start to stamp their authority on a tight clash in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Northumbria University’s Sport Central.

And a welcome victory should have been more convincing on the back of a dominant final quarter.

Lynsey Armitage was restored to the starting seven and her attacking partnership with Chiara Semple caused the Jets problems from the start.

But the battling visitors needed the win as much as their hosts and no quarter was asked or given during a tense opening period.

Shanice Beckford became the fourth TN player to wear the centre’s dress this season with fellow Jamaican Nicole Dixon named on the bench.

But Keenan’s latest attempt at solving her side’s problem position never felt like the perfect answer.

The Jets made the most of TN’s hesitancy through the middle of the court to establish a four-goal lead with six minutes of the first half to play.

But the home side fought back with veteran Armitage scoring four of her side’s last five goals of the second period.

TN took a 25-23 lead into the second half but Semple failed to reappear – the prolific Kiwi sporting heavy strapping and an ice pack on her left knee.

That forced a significant tactical switch with Dixon handed her first minutes since picking up an ankle knock against Mavericks earlier this month.

The feisty West Indian lined up at centre with Beckford moving to goal attack.

And the enforced change sparked TN’s best period of the game as Armitage gratefully received a string of pinpoint passes from her new attacking partner.

Keenan’s side pulled clear midway through the third period and fully deserved their 37-33 lead with 15 minutes to play.

Semple shook off her first half strain to partner Armitage in the final quarter with Beckford pushed back to wing attack.

But Keenan kept faith with daughter Tuaine and Leah Kennedy in defence with the young duo growing in stature as the game wore on.

And the relief inside Sport Central was palpable as the hosts finally put points on the Superleague board and celebrated a hugely significant win.

Vitality Player of the Match: Tuaine Keenan

TeAroha Keenan

Keenan wants to come back stronger

Team Northumbria will go into Round 5 of the Vitality Netball Superleague with no wins from their first four games.

You can find the Northumbria match report from their 58-28 defeat at the hands of Team Bath here:

Te Aroha Keenan insisted the next generation of Team Northumbria stars will come back stronger after another tough examination of their top flight credentials in Bath last night.

There is no time for the Sport Central club to dwell on a 58-28 defeat in the South West – with Yorkshire Jets due on Tyneside in two days’ time.

And Keenan heads into a must-win clash confident her youngest players are picking up the court time and experience required to kickstart a disappointing season to date.

TN’s starting seven at Bath boasted an average age of less than 20 with both Brie Grierson and Jaydene Robinson handed key roles from the centre pass.

“We lost the first quarter by a single goal and to see so much young talent out on court is exciting for the future,” said Keenan.

“At 22 and 23 Leah Kennedy and Tuaine [Keenan] were the oldest players on court and I was very proud of what that group achieved.

“But I suppose Bath’s physicality and experience told in the second half. For the first time this season I thought the team looked a little lost after the break and that was disappointing.

“We will regroup and get ready for the Jets knowing we’re at home and we have the benefit of a partisan Sport Central crowd.”

TN trailed 10-9 after the opening period in Bath and led early on in the second quarter.

Missing injured centre Nicole Dixon, Keenan started with four teenagers against the star-studded hosts.

And for 20 minutes TN looked capable of springing a surprise against one of this season’s top four contenders.

Shanice Beckford and Chiara Semple formed an all-new attacking line-up with veteran shooter Lynsey Armitage held back until the second half.

And Keenan felt a 27-15 half-time deficit failed to do her battling side justice.

“The scoreline doesn’t really tell the story of the first half,” she added. “I set my players some pretty lofty targets and many of them came off court happy with what they’d achieved.

“We flew out of the blocks but Bath slowly turned the screw in defence and did a very good job of limiting our attacking threat.”

The hosts dominated the second half to close out a convincing victory but Keenan insists a 0-4 record will not prey on the minds of her young squad come Monday night’s clash with the Jets.

“People say it’s a game we can win but it’s about how we perform on the night,” she added. “What we need to do after what is a long drive back to the North East is get ourselves back into play mode.

“This weekend’s schedule is a challenge in itself but we can’t wait to get back to Sport Central and play on front of our own fans again.”

Monday’s live Sky Sports clash gets underway from 7.45pm and tickets are on sale from the venue’s reception or by visiting the Team Northumbria Netball Superleague page on nusportcentral.com