Strathclyde Sirens Vs Severn Stars

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Celtic Dragons 46 – 58 Wasps Netball

Wasps Netball continued their 100 per cent winning record for the season with a 58-46 win against a resilient Celtic Dragons side in Cardiff.

The Black and Golds are now the only team remaining with a perfect record in the Vitality Netball Superleague this season, after securing five successive victories.

Mel Mansfield’s team controlled the game from the second-quarter to the final whistle – after being matched by their hosts for the first 15 minutes.

Mansfield said: “This was a big three points tonight and to not lose a single quarter was really pleasing.

“It was a physical game but the second-half is always strong for us and we were able to make some changes to give our players a rest ahead of Friday’s trip to Bath.

“We managed to get all of our squad out on the court tonight and it was fantastic to see Chloe Essam out there and get the chance to show the talent she has.

“There is a great vibe in this team at the moment. The strength of this team is the depth of our squad, so I think we’re using that strength brilliantly.”

The game saw a composed start for both sides, with six goals scored with no turnovers.

It was Wasps who made the first mistake. Dragons Wing Defence Nia Jones picked off a pass and sparked a run to give the home side a three-goal lead.

Dragons were unlucky not to have the lead at the close of the third-quarter, as the visitors fought back with a string of impressive goals from Katie Harris to bring her side level.

South Africa captain Bongi Msomi exerted her influence early in the second-quarter, feeding the shooting circle well and unlocking the opposition’s defence.

Wasps’ defence then clicked into action by forcing a couple of turnovers, including a well-timed interception by Fran Wiliams to push out to a four-goal advantage.

Dragons turned to aggressive defensive play in an attempt to reduce the deficit, but the Black and Golds played around the pressure and led by seven at half-time.

Mansfield made three changes at the break and Josie Huckle made an immediate impact, disrupting the home side’s shooters.

Sophia Candappa picked up where she left off with her Player of the Match performance in the last fixture and linked up well with Rachel Dunn to bring Wasps’ lead to double-figures.

Dragons were unable to convert a series of goal-scoring chances and the visitors pressed their advantage, with talented Goal Attack Chloe Essam impressing with two quickfire goals shortly after coming on.

Mansfield again shuffled her pack for the final-quarter, with Msomi and Williams re-joining the action.

The home side rallied and looked to claw into the Wasps 12-goal lead, with Nia Jones in the thick of the action for the hosts.

But Wasps were too strong, with Tamsin Moala also featuring in the fourth-quarter, and pushed to a 12-goal win.

Wasps Netball’s next fixture will see them face Team Bath at Sport Training Village – Bath University on Friday 22 February (7.30pm centre-pass).

Wasps starting seven: GK Hannah Knights; GD Fran Williams; WD Amy Flanagan; C Jade Clarke; WA Bongi Msomi; GA Katie Harris; GS Rachel Dunn

Used substitutes: Sophia Candappa (WA), Sam May (WD), Josie Huckle (GK), Chloe Essam (GA); Tamsin Moala (GS)

Dragons starting seven: GK Stacian Facey; GD Dee Bolakaro; WD Nia Jones; C Kyra Jones; WA Suzy Drane; GA Kalifa McCollin ; GS Chelsea Lewis

Tickets are now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Big Easter Weekend!

Make sure you’re following the Vitality Netball Superleague on Twitter for the latest news and updates!

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Dragons win thriller in Glasgow

Celtic Dragons returned to winning ways on their away trip to Glasgow in what was a knife-edge encounter.

Those in attendance were treated to a breathless display of physicality and flair with both teams firing themselves at every ball and where the winner would be decided on the fine margins of successful feeds into the circle.

Both sides came out with plenty of focus in the initial stages of the first quarter. Kalifa McCollin netted the first for Dragons and then it appeared that the visitors had turned over possession from Sirens’ first centre pass, only to cede the ball immediately again. It was, nevertheless, an early sign of intent from Dragons GK Stacian Facey who enjoyed possibly her finest outing of the 2019 campaign so far. There were no shortages of opportunities for Dragons as the quarter went on, with Dee Bolakoro making use of her long reach to win a tip which led to a Dragons score. Some errors did creep into the Dragons centre pass and it this allowed Sirens to grab an early advantage at the break.

In the second quarter, Clare Elsley came on for Kyra Jones at C as the Dragons looked to maintain discipline off their centre pass. By this time the home team were really getting stuck in and there were some fantastic contests for the ball with Nia Jones tumbling across the court in trademark fashion! Dragons did seem to tidy up and the visiting bench were jumping for joy as Stacian made two big intercepts in a matter of a minute to help the Dragons really get stuck in. A footwork call at 10 minutes stalled some of the Dragons momentum, but Chelsea Lewis and Kalifa McCollin combined for a perfect 10 from 10 to keep the score ticking over. The lead changed hands a few times in the period, but Sirens were no slouches and they kept a slender advantage at the half.

Kyra Jones returned to court for the third quarter and immediately displayed laser focus to make an early intercept. She led what appeared to be some far more patient Dragons drives up court as the team weathered some excellent play from the Sirens who went 3-up. Similarly, Suzy Drane took her time and was able to exploit some outstanding passing options as the Dragons took the lead once again. There were far fewer flying interceptions or acrobatic tips in this quarter, but rather the team were more focused on slowing down the Sirens run of play and causing their opponents to make their own mistakes. As a result, Dragons took their first quarter time lead of the match.

Going into the last quarter there were no visible signs of nerves as the squad remained composed under Nia’s leadership. Returning to court, the movement was patient, considered and Chelsea took good advantage of the opportunities she was afforded. That first clinical five minutes essentially won Dragons the game as Sirens and their vocal crowd came back fighting to try and steal a famous win. There were some unnecessary long balls thrown from the Dragons but Sirens were likewise guilty – a telegraphed passed found its way to Dee on the thirteenth minute and from there the away bench were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Speaking after the match, Head Coach Tania Hoffman said: “It was a torrid match and could have gone either way! But I’m very pleased that the girls hung on in there and got intercepts when we really needed them.”

She added: “Again, we just need to hold onto the ball for a little bit longer. We just need to stick to our game plan and what works for us.”

Looking forward to Celtic Dragons next game, at home to Wasps on Monday 18 February, Hoffman spoke about the squad’s preparation. She said: “We’ve got a few trainings this week and it’s really about looking at what Wasps bring to the table and how we can counter that, but also working on the things we need to fix.”

Quarter Scores: 14-12 (14-12); 10-11 (24-23); 12-14 (36-37); 10-13 (46-50)

Celtic Dragons: GS Chelsea Lewis, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Suzy Drane, C Kyra Jones, WD Nia Jones (capt), GD Dee Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Replacements: Lucy Howells, Lucy Herdman, Abby Tyrrell, Clare Elsey, Eleanor Roberts.

Strathclyde Sirens: GS C Tuivati, GA L Gallagher, WA N McCleary, C C Maxwell, WD G Abernethy, GD E Nicholl and GK E Gibbons. Replacements: K Boyle, R Edgar, B Goodwin, N McCall and H Mulheron.

Tickets are also now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Big Easter Weekend!

Make sure you’re following the Vitality Netball Superleague on Twitter for the latest news and updates!

Dragons

Game of two halves in Cardiff

It was a classic game of two halves as Cardiff welcomed the Vitality Netball Superleague back for the first time in 2019 and Celtic Dragons took on newly-rebranded Saracens Mavericks.

It was a poor start from Dragons whose first centre pass fell into the hands of the visitors and within five minutes, Mavericks had a five-goal advantage. Heads could have dropped after such a nightmare start but the Dragons remained focused and with captain Nia Jones directing the Dragons relentless drives up court. Chelsea stood firm at goal and with seconds left, much to the home crowds delight, Kalifa made an interception and the Dragons were right back into the game.

Celtic Dragons made a far more assertive start to the second quarter, Chelsea scoring in the first 10 seconds. Kalifa continued to busy herself across the court as Kyra relentlessly chased after every Mavericks ball. A highlight of the quarter was when a long ball up court look set to go into the stands, only for Chelsea to use her trademark reach and athleticism to keep the ball in play with Suzy scooping it up and powering it into the circle. As the quarter drew to a close, the Mavericks defence tightened up and at the half the visitors were able to extend their lead to 5.

Dragons were still very much in the scrap coming back onto the court after half time, but a Mavericks interception set the tone early and helped the visitors’ lead extend to 8 within seconds. Dee made a critical interception for Dragons to attempt to stem the Mavericks onslaught but errors were creeping into the Dragons centre pass and Mavericks’ outstanding shooter George Fisher was rock steady in front of goal. Clare Elsley came on for Dragons but by this point, the visitors were into their stride. Quarter time came and Mavericks had broken the back of the game with a lead of fifteen as the Dragons were left to contemplate missed opportunities.

Head Coach Tania Hoffman made some changes in the final quarter, with Abby and Eleanor taking to court, but the game was gone and Mavericks were able to add a few more to their tally, with Mavericks goal attack Kadeen Corbin scoring 21 of 22 in the match.

Speaking after the match, Hoffman said: “We were only five down going into the second half, but lost five goals quickly in the third quarter. We have to put it all together. You don’t win games in the first half and we are disappointed with the end result.”

Celtic Dragons now have a quick turnaround in training this week with a big away trip to Scotland to play the University of Strathclyde Sirens in Glasgow on Friday night. Updates will be available via Celtic Dragons social media.

Player of the Match: George Fisher

Quarter Scores: 15-16 (15-16); 10-14 (25-30); 9-19 (34-49); 10-17 (44-66)

Celtic Dragons: GS Chelsea Lewis, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Suzy Drane, C Kyra Jones, WD Nia Jones (capt), GD Dee Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Replacements: Lucy Howells, Lucy Herdman, Abby Tyrrell, Clare Elsey, Eleanor Roberts.

Saracens Mavericks: GS G Fisher, GA K Corbin, WA G Lees, C S Corbin, WD M Drayne, GD L Keable, GK R Quashie. Replacements: S Collard, B Ecuyer-Dale, E Kelk, P McCalla and J Trip.

Tickets are also now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Big Easter Weekend!

Make sure you’re following the Vitality Netball Superleague on Twitter for the latest news and updates!

Photo credit: Ian Lovell

Severn Stars v Celtic Dragons

Severn Stars’ captain inspires team to first win of the season

Severn Stars’ captain, Maryka Holtzhausen, returned from international duty with South Africa to inspire the team to a memorable home victory over Celtic Dragons.

There was a sell-out crowd at the new University of Gloucestershire Arena to see Severn Stars take on Celtic Dragons in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

Stars were looking for their first win of the season, having lost narrowly in rounds one and two so far. But it was perhaps the Dragons who might have been expected to start the more confidently, having taken maximum points in round 2 against London Pulse.

However, with the excited Gloucestershire crowd roaring them on, it was the home side who started strongest. The international break seemed to have rejuvenated the Stars, who also welcomed back captain, Maryka Holtzhausen into attack, fresh from starring for South Africa in the International Quad Series. Her experience and game control immediately shone through and her combination with Iona Darroch, at wing attack, was scintillating at times.

Meanwhile at the defensive end, Jamaican international and player of the match, Jodi-Ann Ward showed the home crowd exactly what Stars have signed, as she turned over ball after ball in the first five minutes, stunting the Dragons attack. Ward formed a formidable partnership at the back with Gloucester local, Sam Cook, and together they continually rebuffed the advances of the Dragons’ attack. Dragons began to grow into the game as the quarter wore on, but Stars’ strong start meant they led 11-8 as the first quarter came to an end.

The second quarter continued in much the same fashion, as Welsh shooter, Georgia Rowe, rapidly becoming a Stars’ favourite, slotted away goal after goal, despite the physical attention of the Dragons’ defence. Another player in her first season at Stars, Lucy Harris began to show just why Sam Bird was keen to sign her. Her constant work rate and defensive commitment at centre made it difficult for Dragons to gain any momentum and Stars went in at the half time having extended their lead to 28-21.

After the break, Stars looked determined to carry on where they left off and they continued to pile the pressure on the travelling side. The defensive trio of Sam Cook, Ward and Ella Powell-Davies, on her first ever start in the VNSL, proved tough for the experienced international attack of Dragons and although they ticked over their scoreboard, it was hard-work for the Welsh side. Stars extended their lead once again to finish 43-32 at end of quarter.

Head coach, Sam Bird, made use of her bench in the final quarter, maximising the opportunity to try new combinations as the win began to look secure. There were appearances also for England A internationals, Halimat Adio and Paige Reed, as well as a brief cameo for Welsh international, Cara Lea Moseley against her former club. Stars completed a confidence boosting 57-40 win with a complete four quarter performance, winning every quarter in Gloucester in front of a delighted crowd.

Goal shooter Georgia Rowe felt the crowd played their part in the victory. Georgia said: “The crowd was awesome, the atmosphere was really good and I think that is what kept us going. We just kept building and building. A really good performance.”

Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, echoed these thoughts, remarking: “I am really pleased with the performance. The Gloucester crowd was great. Maryka coming back has given the group a lot of confidence and lifted the level of every player. We were solid in every position throughout the court and we have some great depth on the bench now too.”

Stars next travel to Team Bath Netball on Friday 1 February before returning for their next home game against Manchester Thunder at the University of Worcester Arena.

For tickets visit www.ticketline.co.uk/netball-superleague-severn-stars#bio.

Image credit: clivejonespr.com