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Vitality Netball Superleague 2022: Loughborough’s statement, Dragons win & Round 6 talking points

Georgia Rowe delivers, scoring 42 goals for Dragons (Image: Clive Jones PR)

It was another busy weekend of action in the Vitality Netball Superleague and there is plenty for us to ponder after six games in four days in Round 6.

However it’s fasten your seatbelts for Rounds 7 & 8 which come back to back across the entire weekend, four will be streamed live on the Sky Sports YouTube channel and there is a mouthwatering Monday Night Netball to look forward too.

But before all that – and after the emotion of Serena Guthrie’s pregnancy and retirement – what did we learn from wins for Thunder, Pulse, Sirens, Lightning, Rhinos and Dragons……

Dragons are victorious….finally

Headline billing this week goes to Celtic Dragons who have looked like a win has been coming for quite some time and it finally came with a dominant victory over Severn Stars in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday night.

In the latest episode of Off the Court Tamsin Greenway spoke at length about how this Dragons team, under new head coach Dannii Titmuss-Morris have been making strides round-by-round.

It is ironic that victory came after perhaps their least effective performance of the season – a comprehensive defeat at London Pulse in Round 5 – but it also owes much to the culture that’s being created in Cardiff.

After just one win last season, in April, Dragons losing run was ended at 11 and it was well deserved.

The result was a complete display that saw Dragons win three of the four quarters and move off the foot of the Superleague table at the expense of Stars who sink to 11th place and that opening day win over Surrey Storm seems a long way away.

As well as a new coach it’s a new-look squad but the starting seven has been the same for each and every game so far. Players know their jobs, combinations and understandings are now being built on.

In Round 7 they face a Wasps team that, like Stars, have just a solitary victory to their name this season, it’s a chance at back-to-back wins that hasn’t happened since Feb/Mar 2018.

Lightning lay down marker

With a doff of the cap to Manchester Thunder who stayed perfect themselves, defending champions Loughborough Lightning underlined that they won’t be giving up their title without a fight.

Victoria Burgess’ team produced perhaps their most complete display of the season to maintain their own 100% record with an eye-catching dismantling of Saracens Mavericks.

Lightning are just three points behind Thunder in the table having played one game less – Loughborough play twice this weekend and Thunder once so we may be level when you rejoin Talking Points next week.

Mavs have enjoyed a superb start to the season and pushed Thunder all the way in Round 5, but on the day they were no match for a Loughborough side who started fast and never let up.

Lisa Alexander – who knows a thing or two about dominant forces – told last week’s Off The Court that she believes Lightning are the team beat.

“Loughborough have improved since last season, their defence is better and their centre court operates at an extremely high level – they are hard to stop and they want to prove that.”

There’s a long way to go, and Thunder will have plenty to say on that, but Monday Night Netball in Round 10 on March 28 looks like one to mark you card for.

Sirens win can be catalyst

There is a different pressure on Strathclyde Sirens this season, so perhaps a little perspective to their start to the season is required.

Having finished 6th last season and been in the mix for the top four places right down to the final rounds, much was expected of the Scottish franchise.

A win over Wasps at Season Opener – with Beth Dix ensuring a delayed start to not delay the entertainment – got them off to a good start before three successive home defeats left them playing catch-up.

Look a little deeper though and in the first of those games they were edged out by two goals against Leeds Rhinos, then gave Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning a tough test – those two are yet to lose a game between them.

A narrow victory over Surrey Storm in Round 6 left them eighth in the table, three points behind four placed Team Bath but arguably having played their two toughest home games of the season.

Saracens Mavericks and London Pulse are next up in the double header round, teams that – like Sirens – will fancy their chances of making the top four

Yorkshire netball is back

A special word in this weeks talking points for Yorkshire netball and a tremendous crowd out in force as the Rhinos played their first match in Leeds.

Having already played in Sheffield so far this season – and they’ll add Hull to the roadshow as well as more trips to Sheffield – it was perhaps fitting that Rhinos first home win came in Leeds.

A bumper crowd were treated to a thriller at the First Direct Arena where Leeds triumphed 43-42 against Wasps.

A brilliant week of build-up saw tickets being hidden around the city, Superleague legends Jade Clarke and Rachel Dunn in Zoom conversation about the leagues growth and an epic contest in front of more than 3,000 fans was just reward.

Arenas like the First Direct, the latest big name on the circuit for the Superleague, are hugely important to the growth of the sport and the competition and it will be great to see how this weekend’s Roses clash brings in the crowds at the AO Arena in Manchester.

Big crowds, close contests and a great week of build-up – we love to see it.

A defining weekend coming up?

The season comes at you, hard. And fast

This time next week we may well know an awful lot more about the chase for the top four, the battle at the bottom and indeed the race to top the regular season standings.

Rounds 7 and 8 will take place across four days starting on Friday with two games and finishing on Monday with two games – including the live Sky Sports offering between Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning.

Only two teams play once – bottom of the table Severn Stars and top of the table Manchester Thunder.

Five of the teams are playing on back-to-back days and four have two games in three days – they’ll barely be time to draw breath, and there are some tasty looking derbies as well.

Thunder and Rhinos meet at the AO Arena, Storm and Mavs renew their rivalry and Pulse face Storm as well.

Here at Superleague HQ we’ve got our eyes in the middle of the table between 3rd and 8th. Four of the 10 games feature meetings between teams wedged in that part of the table that have ambition of making the top four

We may well start to see some separation in the league – or it might close up and we might be none the wiser but we’ll have a lot of fun finding out.

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