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Olivia Tchine reaches for the ball at the Season Opener in Birmingham (Image: Morgan Harlow)

Olivia Tchine stretches for London Pulse at the Season Opener in Birmingham (Image: Morgan Harlow)

Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Team Bath, Saracens Mavericks and Severn Stars claimed the honours on the first day of the 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague season with victories on a high scoring Saturday in Birmingham.

Thunder took top billing, scoring 79 goals in a huge victory over a Celtic Dragons team that also had their moments, while Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning – who like Thunder finished in the top four last season – also claimed eye-catching wins on a competitive day of action.

Saracens Mavericks served notice of their potential with victory in a pulsating contest against Wasps and Severn Stars came out on top in a fiercely competitive end to the day, battling their way past Surrey Storm as a vocal crowd cheered both teams over the line at the end of a day that began at 12pm.

The Season Opener weekend continues on Sunday with four matches in Round 2 after Leeds Rhinos had to cancel their contest with Loughborough – coverage gets underway on Sky Sports from 12pm

Loughborough Lightning 61-50 London Pulse

Defending champion Loughborough Lightning began the defence of their Superleague title with an impressive victory over London Pulse in the first game of the 2022 season.

Beth Cobden starred as Loughborough began the season with a win (Image: Morgan Harlow)

Beth Cobden starred as Loughborough began the season with a win (Image: Morgan Harlow)

After an evenly matched first quarter, Lightning’s experience told and they extended a three-goal advantage with a run of seven unanswered goals to start the second quarter and by half-time had opened up a 31-20 lead.

New signing Fran Williams linked up brilliantly with Beth Cobden to force the crucial turnovers that were to prove decisive, and last season’s top scorer Mary Cholhok was in trademark ruthless form under the post.

A hugely competitive second half saw little between the teams, in fact the scores were level between the two teams across the final two periods as Pulse underlined what they are capable of.

However Lightning’s second quarter was all-important as they got off to the perfect start.

“Even for us experienced players, you always have a bit of nerves, but you’re excited to see the fans, especially in this big arena. Once we got out there, we settled down,” Nat Panagarry.

Starting Sevens

Loughborough Lightning – – – GK – Harvey; GD – Williams; WD – Cobden; C – Panagarry; WA – Joseph; GA – Clark; GS – Cholhok.

London Pulse – – – GK – Fudoji; GD – Odeogberin; WD – Everitt; C – Rattu; WA – Honey; GA – McDonald; GS – Tchine.

Player of the Match – Beth Cobden, Loughborough Lightning.

Up Next

Loughborough’s game against Leeds Rhinos on Sunday had been postponed with Rhinos able to field the required number of players. It means they are next in action on Saturday against Celtic Dragons (Feb 12).

Pulse are back in at action at 2.30pm on Sunday when they face Team Bath.

Team Bath 54-40 Strathclyde Sirens

Team Bath came through a stern test against Strathclyde Sirens with a notable performance either side of half-time to record victory that kicks off their quest for a first Superleague title since 2013.

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Taylor McEvitt battle for possession

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Taylor McEvitt battle for possession

Sirens were last season’s surprise package, finishing sixth in the table and with Niamh McCall starring in attack they kept pace with Bath throughout the first quarter to remaining within two goals.

Despite no Phumza Maweni or Serena Guthrie for runners-up Team Bath pulled seven goals clear during the second quarter with Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis finding their range.

Inspired by captain Gia Abertnethy, Sirens looked to be finishing strongest and closed to within three goals before a crucial Imogen Allison intercept gave Bath the chance to open up a six-goal half-time lead.

Sirens rang the half-time changes, but it was Bath who bared their teeth pulling clear with a dominant showing across the third quarter as Layla Guscoth and Allison underlined their pedigree to help Bath extend their advantage into double figures.

A rallying final quarter from Sirens kept them competitive with Claire Maxwell returning to court but victory was Bath’s with Betsy Creek and Molly Hole impressing after their second half introductions.

“I’m delighted with how everyone has slotted back into the squad. Having been away with England it’s taken a bit of time to get those connections back, but I’m really pleased with how we’re building and hopefully off the back of today we’ll be even better come tomorrow,” Sophie Drakeford-Lewis

Starting Sevens

Team Bath – – – GK – Pavelin; GD – Guscoth; WD – Allison; C – J Shaw; WA – R Shaw; GA – Drakeford-Lewis; GS – Borger.

Strathclyde Sirens – – – GK – Vinkhumbo; GD – Nicholl; WD – McKevitt; C – Abernethy; WA – Dix; GA – McCall; GS – Goodwin.

Player of the Match – Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Team Bath

Up next – Both teams are back in action on Sunday, Sirens take on Wasps at 11.45am in the opening game of the day before Bath face London Pulse at 2.30pm

Manchester Thunder 79-53 Celtic Dragons

Manchester Thunder saw off a spirited and new-look Celtic Dragons in high-scoring contest on the opening day of the season in Birmingham.

Eleanor Cardwell dazzled as Manchester Thunder racked up 79 goals in victory over Celtic Dragons (Image: Ben Lumley)

Despite being without new arrivals Shadine van Der Merwe and Nat Metcalf it was Thunder who raced out of the traps to set the pace thanks to the relentless accuracy of Eleanor Cardwell and Joyce Mvula.

However Dragons, with new coach Danni Titmuss-Morris taking charge of the franchise for the first time, were undaunted and matched the 2019 champions goal-for-goal in a physical second quarter.

Thunder maintained their early advantage to lead 38-29 at half-time and giving some of their emerging stars court time pushed on during the third period with Lois Pearson, Yomi Eza-Wilson and Millie Saunders taking their chance to impress.

Cardwell and Mvula continued to stack up the goals as Thunder finished just one short of an incredible 80, while Dragons and their own in-form shooter Georgia Rowe can take plenty of positives from a defeat that saw them score more goals than they managed in any of their games last season.

“We’ve been working hard in pre-season – the girls have been relentless! I’ve only been to about five sessions, but I’ve seen how hard they’ve been working. To see the progression we’ve made collectively since the first session back to now is phenomenal. We’ve also got such good youth coming through – the future is looking bright for Thunder,” Eleanor Cardwell.

Starting Sevens

Manchester Thunder – – – GK – Almond; GD – Eza-Wilson; WD – Malcolm; O’Hanlon; WA – Pearson; GA – Cardwell; GS – Mvula.

Celtic Dragons – – – GK – Greene-Noel; GD – Roddy; WD – N Jones; C – C.Jones; WA – O’Dwyer; GA – Rademan; GS – Rowe.

Player of the Match – Eleanor Cardwell, Manchester Thunder

Up Next – Thunder take on Severn Stars in the final match of the Season Opener at 6pm on Sunday, while Dragons will look for a first win of the campaign when they take on Saracens Mavericks at 4.15pm.

Wasps 49-58 Saracens Mavericks

Just three points separated Wasps and Saracens Mavericks last season and each team claimed a victory, but as the curtain came up on the 2022 season it was Mavericks who came out on top.

Kadeen Corbin was the player of the match as Saracens Mavericks saw off Wasps (Image:

Kadeen Corbin was the player of the match as Saracens Mavericks saw off Wasps (Image: Ben Lumley)

A high-class first half see-sawed both ways with the teams trade big time turnovers and ice-cool shooting under the posts. Mavs had edged the first quarter by four goals, but Wasps claimed the second by two to leave Mavericks with a narrow 26-24 lead at half-time.

Mavericks relentless turnover ball proved decisive, with Kadeen Corbin and Ine-Marie Venter given bags of chances and it was enough for a decisive shift in the contest. Midway through the third quarter a one point deficit had become eight and the the start of the final 15 minutes they were 11 clear of Wasps.

Gezelle Allison offered another dimension to Wasps attack as the outscored Mavericks in the final quarter but the deficit was too much to overturn as Mavs chalked up a notable opening day victory in an entertaining encounter.

“There were a lot of mistakes, and it was see-sawing back and forth but in the third quarter we just said, ‘we don’t care how ugly it looks, as long as we get the ball down and put it through the net then it’s all good,” Razia Quashie.

Starting Sevens

Wasps – – – GK – Huckle; GD – Powell-Davis; WD – Tarnowski; C – Nicholls; WA – Christian; GA – Parize; GS Dunn.

Saracens Mavericks – GK – Quashie; GD – Gibson; WD – Marshall; C – Ecuyer-Dale; WA – S Corbin; GA – K Corbin; GS – Venter.

Player of the Match – Kadeen Corbin, Saracens Mavericks

Up Next – It’s a quick turnaround for both squads, especially Wasps who open up Day Two against Strathclyde Sirens at 12.45pm while Mavericks will take on Celtic Dragons at 4.15pm.

Surrey Storm 46-57 Severn Stars

Severn Stars produced an impressive second half to get the better of Surrey Storm and claim the final victory of a bumper Saturday of netball in Birmingham.

Isabelle Eaton and Alima Priest take aim in Birmingham (Image: Ben Lumley)

Isabelle Eaton and Alima Priest take aim in Birmingham (Image: Ben Lumley)

With both sets of players forced to look on while eight other teams got their season going across the start of the day, it was no surprise that the game started in pulsating fashion, exchanging the lead across the opening minutes and ending the first quarter all square.

It wasn’t until halfway through the second quarter that one team managed to pull clear and it was Severn Stars who did enough to win each of the final three periods. Captain Liana Leota was the catalyst at the attacking end, forming an impressive united alongside the return Paige Reed and Isabelle Eaton to forge the narrowest of half-time leads.

Surrey were more than a match across the court, Niamh Cooper forcing valuable turnover ball to ensure Storm remaining within touching distance.

However Stars eeked out a six-goal lead and with time running out and Storm forced to chase the game they closed out a superb day of netball with a polished victory.

“It was a physical battle all the way through, but we didn’t let off once. It felt great to be back out on court,” Paige Reed.

Starting Sevens

Surrey Storm – – – GK – Priest; GD – Middleton; WD – Cooper; C – Austin; WA – Parsons; GA – Magee; GS – Peace.

Severn Stars – – – GK – Artman; GD – Herdman; WD –  Thomas; C – Drayne; WA – Leota; GA – Reed; GS – Eaton.

Player of the Match – Paige Reed, Severn Stars

Up Next – Manchester Thunder provide the next opposition for both teams, Stars will face them on Sunday in the final game of the weekend (6pm), while Storm get a week off before travelling to Manchester next Saturday (5pm).

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