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Vitality Netball Superleague: Round 18 Talking Points

Mavericks had too much for Storm in Round 18

Three is the magic number coming out of Round 18 of the Vitality Netball Superleague.

We now know the identity of three of the four teams that will advance to the semi-finals, with London Pulse booking their playoff spot at the weekend.

Three points is also the slender gap defining the race for fourth, with Team Bath and Saracens Mavericks both winning. Here’s what we learned from the round.

Pulse secure top four

London Pulse blew out Strathclyde Sirens in a 57-41 victory that made them mathematically uncatchable in third place.

Sam Bird’s side have been emphatic in tricky tussles with teams in the lower reaches of the table, never failing to send a message to the rest of the league when they can.

Their blanket defence was out in force at the Emirates Arena, with two turnovers each coming from the hands of Zara Everitt, Funmi Fadoju and Lindsay Keable.

Pulse are well aware the gap to being a Grand Final team lies in raising their game against the top sides; both Lightning and Bath have been 20 points better in meetings this season.

They have proven they can do it, getting within three points of untouchable Thunder in March. The challenge is to do it again when it matters most.

Fourth up for grabs

Who is going to blink first: Team Bath or Saracens Mavericks?

Five in to three doesn’t go and fourth place looks certain to go down to 28 May, the final day of the season. There was only a point between the two sides in the rearranged reverse fixture and they won by almost exactly the same margin in Round 18.

Bath downed dangerous Celtic Dragons 44-49 and Mavs piggybacked on Ine-Mari Venter to beat Surrey Storm by four, although they were beaten by Thunder in a double game weekend.

There’s nothing between these two, and one has to miss out!

Lightning starting slow

The top two have collectively lost once in 36 games but one of the bigger scares came in Lightning’s two-point squeak home against Wasps.

Wasps were flying, coming in on the strength of four straight wins, and Rachel Dunn and Lucy Parize rode the wave in the early stages.

Lightning showed their mettle in the crucial ‘Championship quarter’, where they outscored the hosts 17-13.

Their habit of starting slow looks to be creeping back in at just the wrong time, a chink of light that Pulse and others won’t have missed.

Rhinos lay foundations

Wins in back-to-back weeks is the kind of consistency Leeds Rhinos have been craving all season.

There has undoubtedly been a drop-off from the performances that saw them finish fourth last season, with a lack of consistency preventing them from repeating.

Let’s not forget that they are sixth, only six points behind Team Bath at this stage, and stretching clear of Storm in that position.

With young players like Amelia Hall and Michelle Magee coming into their own this term, they will be a team to watch next season.

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