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Netball Super League Season Opener

The Netball Super League is back! We kicked off the 2023 campaign with the Season Opener live from the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.

Re-watch all the action on the Sky Sports’ YouTube channel (UK only).

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FT – Manchester Thunder 68 Celtic Dragons 42

Here’s your starting sevens:

Q1

After a lot of change in the off season, Thunder fielded a number of  young prospects from their pathway with Taylor McKevitt coming back from Strathclyde Sirens to start at wing defence. The Future Rose got stuck in on the action straight away, tipping the ball away from Shona O’Dwyer in the defensive third. Behind her, Kerry Almond, a stand out in Thunder’s defensive end last season, was also breaking up play as the Dragons’ found it difficult to break the champion’s resistance. Lenize Potgieter, making her debut for the Manchester franchise, continued the form she showed for the South Africa Proteas at the Netball Quad Series as she kept the scoreboard ticking over and helped her side to an 17-9 lead in Q1.

Q2

Brought in from the Collingwood Magpies in the Suncorp Super Netball League, Gabby Sinclair was making her debut alongside training partner Phillipa Yarranton and the mix of youth and experience began to click early in the second quarter as their pair worked well to tot up their total and bring them back to within six. Thunder bounced back immediately as Lois Pearson, starting at goal attack, began to find more space in the circle to take away the focus from Potgieter. Captain for 2023, Nat Metcalf, was back in her familiar wing attack position and alongside Amy Carter, back in a Thunder dress after a long time away with an ACL injury, were orchestrating the play, generating 23 feeds between them as Thunder stretched their advantage to 36-19.

Q3

Into the second half and Karen Greig called former Wasps’ Josie Huckle and Iona Christian on to court in place of Almond and Carter as the Thunder Head Coach looked to field more of her new signings. Carrying on where they left off, the NSL title holders continued to clock up the goals as Potgieter added to her tally, showing great composure under the post, giving the Thunder fans a peak of what they can expect for the rest of the season. Whilst Dragons’ struggled to cut back the deficit, they did manage to find moments to celebrate. Hannah Leighton worked hard to track back and make a flying intercept before Ella Powell-Davies and Shaquanda Greene-Noel celebrated a well worked turnover, bringing cheers from the crowd.

Q4

Down to the last 15 minutes of the day and Christian and Metcalf moved up into wing attack and goal attack respectively as Carter returned to centre. Christian who shone for Wasps in the 2022 season, showed quick thinking on the circle edge, palming the ball in mid-air into the path of Potgieter who surpassed 40 goals just a couple of minutes into the final quarter. Brought in from Loughborough Lightning, Zoe Matthewman came in for her first appearance in the green dress of Dragons as they looked to sharpen up under the post after registering a number of missed shots during the second and third quarter. In the end, the Welsh side were unable to stop Thunder from pushing further ahead as the champions took their final tally to 68.

Gilbert Player of the Match – Taylor McKevitt (Manchester Thunder)

See stats from the game here


FT – Leeds Rhinos 48 London Pulse 64

Here’s how the two teams line up:

Q1

With captain Nia Jones side-lined and Nicola Smith and Elmere van der Berg still away in South Africa, Leeds Rhinos came into the game with a squad of ten. Despite being low on numbers, the new additions Rhinos had on hand helped get them on the front foot early on. Elle McDonald, who made her debut for the Vitality Roses last month came in at wing attack and helped set the tempo. Ellie Bird, brought in from Trident Homes Tactix in the ANZ Premiership, acted as a target for the Rhinos as McDonald and Paige Reed looked to make use of the shooter’s height. At the back, Michelle Magee showed great athleticism to keep the ball in play before running out of bounds. Pulse began to feel their way back into the game and brought the score back to within three at the close of the quarter.

Q2

Looking for a reaction, Pulse responded quickly. Coming up against her former side, Jade Clarke, showed great hustle to run back to her side’s defensive circle to make a low interception and deny Reed from making the pick up. International teammate Chelsea Pitman, playing in the Netball Super League for the first time since 2015, began to show her quality, producing a couple of perfectly lofted feeds into Olivia Tchine under the post who helped to put her side ahead by two. Under the post at the other end, Lindsay Keable, playing in her 16th season in the Netball Super League, leapt out from the by-line to swipe the ball away from the clutches of Bird and send her team up the other end to continue her side’s run of goals as the lead stretched to six. Last year’s Grand Finalists kept their foot on the gas, running out a dominant 22-10 quarter.

Q3

With Liana Leota absent from the Season Opener due to family reasons, assistant coach Maggie Birkinshaw made just one change at the break bringing Brie Grierson on for Paige Reed to change up the Rhino’s attacking threat. At the other end it was much of the same from Tchine and Neil who continued their sharp shooting under the post, sharing the goals between them as Pulse varied their link up between their attacking players in the final third. With just over five minutes to go until the final break, Halimat Adio came on for Lindsay Keable, making her first appearance in the Netball Super League since 2 May 2021. Sam Bird also brought on Sasha McDonald for Tchine and Ellie Rattu for captain Zara Everitt. Immediately the young Vitality Rose got herself in on the action, making a fine tip on the centre circle. Just before the buzzer, Rhinos managed to force a later turnover, taking the quarter by two goals and reducing the deficit.

Q4

Sam Bird made a couple of further changes in the final quarter as she looked to top up her team’s energy. Alicia Scholes came in at wing attack whilst Ashleigh Dekker came on for Clarke who looked well at home in the pink of Pulse. Low on numbers, Rhinos began to look jaded as they struggled to keep up with the quick tempo of Pulse. With three minutes to go, temporary replacement player Amy Braithwaite came on for Ellie Bird who impressed for Rhinos, scoring 36 on her debut. The Pulse shooters were just as sharp; Liv Tchine notched up 24 goals whilst Berri Neil scored 29, playing out a full hour and taking the Gilbert Player of the Match award.

Gilbert Player of the Match – Berri Neil (London Pulse)

See stats from the game here.


FT – Saracens Mavericks 55 Severn Stars 59

Team news:

Q1

With new players in their teams and new coaches at the helm, this game was set up as a good opportunity for both to feel their way into the new season. Up top for Mavericks, Kira Rothwell, formerly of London Pulse, joined Sasha Corbin and Ine Mari-Venter who as a pair were key to their side’s fifth place finish last season. The trio started well and Rothwell and Venter were clinical under the post. As the end of the first quarter neared, Stars began to feel their way back into the game as Sigi Burger and Grace Namana, helped fire their side back to within three.

Q2

After closing the gap just before the first interval, the momentum was with Stars. A couple of unforced errors in the first five minutes in the second quarter handed them the opportunity to bring the score back level. Despite having the most new players in the league, and a whole new starting seven, Stars were showing good organisation and structure to their play as former Maverick, and now Stars captain, Gabby Marshall, orchestrated the play from the middle of the court. With five minutes to go, Jodie Gibson showed great tactical awareness to tip the ball away from Namana from outside the circle; Venter then duly converted at the end of the break away to put her side back ahead by one before half time.

Q3

Also playing against her former side, Player Coach Jo Trip rallied her troops for the second half with the game finely poised. Continuing where she left off in the second quarter, Marshall continued to harry the Mavericks midcourt, working well Sarah MacPhail, formerly of Sirens, to give them little space in the centre third. With Stars full of confidence and Mavericks struggling to maintain any rhythm, the team in orange stepped onto the front foot and opened up a five goal lead. Midway through the quarter, Kira Rothwell was cautioned for persist contact as she tried to support her team’s defensive unit. What was proving to be a clinical partnership, Burger and Namana continued to cause problems for Gibson and Christina Shaw. Mavericks Head Coach Camilla Buchanan turned to her bench and enlisted debutant Monique Meyer into goal defence for Shaw, pushing Gibson to goalkeeper.

Q4

Trailing by six (41-47) heading into the final 15 minutes, Mavericks had to come out fighting to try and take something from the game. Georgia Lees made her mark with some pinpoint feeds – eight in total for the game – as Mavericks applied the pressure and managed to cut their opponents’ advantage. Stars remained composed in the final stages to professionally see out the game, securing their first victory over Mavericks since 2018 and handing Trip a winning 55-59 start to her debut season as a Head Coach.

Gilbert Player of the Match – Jo Trip (Severn Stars)

See stats from the game here.


FT – Surrey Storm 68 Strathclyde Sirens 56

Here are the two teams:

 

Q1

Into the second game of the day and Surrey Storm, spearheaded by a new attacking line of Proscovia Peace and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis showed immediately how they could be a pair to be feared in the league this season as they quickly helped establish a five goal lead for their side. At the other end, Drakeford-Lewis’ former Bath teammate, Layla Guscoth, also in duck egg blue for this season, demonstrated why she was last season’s Player of the Season, working well with the rest of Storm’s defensive unit with Amy Flanagan and Leah Middleton to limit the service into McCall and Goodwin.

Q2

Sirens’ goalkeeper Towera Vinkhumbo stepped out in the second quarter more assertive, putting pressure on last season’s top scorer and showing why she was one of the standout defenders in the last campaign. Meanwhile, captain for 2023, Beth Dix was starting to show how she hopes to follow in Gia Abernethy’s footsteps for this season as she showed great range with her passing, working the ball well from the right, launching high feeds into Goodwin. It looked like Sirens were beginning to build some momentum but the Storm defence stepped up again and made a couple of key intercepts to bring the score back to 17-17 for the quarter.

Q3

Lesley MacDonald, Sirens Head Coach, shuffled the pack and changed the defensive end, bringing on Abby Tyrell in place of Vinkhumbo as they looked for another way to stop the Ugandan shooter.. Sophia Candappa was introduced for her first minutes of the 2023 in place of captain Yasmin Brookes and immediately showed her creative flair producing a couple of sharp no-look passes into the circle as she helped extend her side’s lead to 14 midway through the quarter. Vinkhumbo returned to court as Siren’s began to kick back into gear with McCall leading from the front, converting with some trademark long shots from the edge of the circle. Storm held on to their lead, taking the score up to 57-43 with 15 minutes to go.

Q4

Sirens rallied to try and cut the deficit but despite a strong defensive showing from Vinkhumbo, including plucking a Candappa long feed out of the air, and some smart attacking moves led by Dix, the gap ultimately proved unassailable. Storm’s Francesca Wells entered the fray at goal attack for her first minutes of the campaign and was quickly off the mark to help her side keep the scoreboard ticking over in the closing stages. Sirens kept battling until the end and took the quarter 11-13, but Mikki Austin’s side ran out 68-56 winners to get their first points of the season on the board.

Gilbert Player of the Match – Sophie Drakeford-Lewis

View stats from the game here.


FT – Team Bath 52 Loughborough Lightning 86

Here are your starting sevens for the first game of the day:

Q1
Last year’s runners up, Loughborough Lightning flew out of the blocks as Vitality Roses’ Alice Harvey and Fran Williams helped turnover a couple of early Bath attacks. Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok was lethal under the post and quickly helped establish a 5-1 lead for her side. Team Bath responded as the two teams went goal-for-goal but Lightning flexed their muscles again with five minutes to go, doubling their advantage to 10 to cap off an impressive 23-13 quarter in their favour.

Q2

Into the second quarter and Lightning continued to put pressure on the Bath defence as wing attack Hannah Joseph continued to thread the ball into Cholhok in the attacking end who began to show her range, firing with accuracy from all areas of the circle. Besty Creak got the crowd on their feet, showing great determination to keep the Bath attack alive by running out of the circle to keep the ball in play. Soon after she pulled off a super catch from a brilliant long feed from Ali Wilshier in the middle of the court and then converted under the post. As Bath tried to build rhythm, Fran Williams and captain Nat Panagarry continued to thwart them as Lightning maintained a strong 43-32 lead going into the break.

Q3

Lightning new signing Rhea Dixon came on for Emma Thacker at goal attack meanwhile Kadeen Corbin, back at Bath, returned to the court after being withdrawn in the second quarter for 18-year-old Sophie Kelly – also getting her first minutes in the Blue and Gold. With much of the same team from last season, the solid connections Lightning had formed were clear to see as Panagarry and Joseph showed great chemistry working the ball around the court before finding Dixon and Cholhok in the circle as Lightning went on to take the quarter 24-7. Team Bath showed glimpses of good play; a couple of minutes before the end Imogen Allison, moved back from centre into wing defence, produced a superb feed from deep in the middle of the court to find Corbin who flicked the ball from the left into Creak.

Q4

Emma Thacker returned to the court in place of Mary Cholhok as Lightning showed their depth in attack. Within just a couple of minutes, Lightning surpassed their highest score for 2021 as they went passed the 72 goals they scored against Surrey Storm last season. As the quarter wore on, Lightning kept the scoreboard ticking over as they eventually took the final score to an impressive 86-52.

Gilbert Player of the Match – Nat Panagarry

See stats from the game here.

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