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Mary Cholhok shoots for goal

Loughborough Lightning and Uganda's Mary Cholhok shoots for goal. Image: Morgan Harlow

Uganda’s tour of the UK has seen the Vitality Netball Superleague represented on all four sides as the She Cranes have taken on Northern Ireland, Wales and England. 

Surrey Storm’s Proscovia Peace captained Uganda to clean sweeps against the Warriors and the newly-named Feathers, playing in both circles as she showed her versatility. 

Against England, the She Cranes experienced their first defeat of the tour, but did not go down without a fight as VNSL teammates became opponents.

There are two more chances for Uganda to defeat the Roses, with two fixtures at the Copper Box Arena this weekend.

Almond debut 14 years in the making 

Northern Ireland featured four VNSL stars for their two-game series against the She Cranes at end of September.

Michelle Magee and Caroline O’Hanlon got early practice for their partnership at Leeds Rhinos after the latter’s signing window move across the Pennines.

They were joined by Niamh Cooper, of Surrey Storm, and Kerry Almond, who made her international debut for the Warriors.

Almond, who is set to embark on her 14th VNSL season with Manchester Thunder, made her bow as Northern Ireland pushed the visitors all the way, Uganda clinching a 36-31 win.

The She Cranes, who are ranked sixth in the world, found their groove in the second game in County Down which saw all four of the Warriors’ VNSL stars named in the starting seven.

Northern Ireland took a four-goal lead into quarter-time before Uganda slowly pulled away from the hosts, emerging 44-34 victors by the buzzer.

She Cranes find their groove in Cardiff 

Another Leeds Rhinos recruit, Nia Jones, led Wales in their two-game series against Uganda as the home side competed as the Welsh Feathers for the first time. 

As co-captain alongside Suzy Drane, Jones skippered her side to a 16-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter, before Uganda levelled the score with half the game gone. 

Uganda then eked out a lead to take the first match 56-47 as Peace starred at goal shooter, with Loughborough Lightning’s Mary Cholhok making an appearance from the bench. 

On just her second appearance, Phillipa Yarranton of Celtic Dragons was named player of the match as she played the full 60 minutes for the Feathers. 

Yarranton combined with clubmate Georgia Rowe in the shooting circle as Christina Shaw of Saracens Mavericks formed a strong defensive pairing with Wasps favourite Ella Powell-Davies. 

For their second game at Cardiff’s House of Sport, Wales named an unchanged starting seven including Team Bath’s Bethan Dyke at wing attack. 

The She Cranes took an early lead and went in 15-8 up at the break, Mary Cholhok starting as goal shooter with Peace switching circles to start at goalkeeper. 

Wales did not let them get away, keeping the seven-goal deficit at half-time before Uganda closed out the win 64-46. 

Dyke was named both player of the match and player of the tournament as she controlled the mid-court for the Feathers, often teaming up with Clare Jones of Celtic Dragons who started on the bench. 

New-look England battle to win 

The Vitality Roses squad for their three-match series against the She Cranes featured 13 players set to star in the VNSL in 2023. 

In Nottingham, Loughborough Lightning’s Alice Harvey made her England debut as the starting goalkeeper, while an all-London Pulse bench saw four more players make their first Roses appearances in the second half. 

Funmi Fadoju, Olivia Tchine, Zara Everitt and Ellie Rattu collected their first England cap as Pulse’s new recruit Chelsea Pitman made a welcome return to the red dress.

Team Bath skipper Imogen Allison started in the centre circle as co-captain alongside Laura Malcolm while Fran Williams joined Harvey in an all-Loughborough defensive partnership.

In England’s shooting circle, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis came up against her new Storm teammate Peace with last season’s Gilbert Top Scorer reprising her role at goalkeeper.

Peace’s defence, alongside Cholhok’s shooting prowess, saw the She Cranes fight back from a five-goal deficit at quarter-time to lead 28-25 at the half-time break.

As England’s new partnerships began to flourish, they steadied the ship to lead 42-37 with three quarters gone before sealing the win 60-51.

The Pulse players will be hoping to be named in the starting seven when the series concludes with back-to-back games at their home of the Copper Box Arena on Saturday and Sunday, while Leeds Rhinos’ Paige Reed and Tash Pavelin of Team Bath could both step up from the Future Roses for a first cap. 

Tickets for the final two games can be found here. Follow @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest Vitality Netball Superleague news.

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