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Severn Stars Team Bath 210419_1

Mixed Easter weekend for Team Bath Netball

It was a mixed Easter weekend for Team Bath Netball, who recorded an excellent derby victory over Severn Stars but missed a first chance to secure a Vitality Netball Superleague semi-final spot when they were edged out in a close contest against top-four rivals Saracens Mavericks.

A busy 48 hours, which saw all ten Superleague teams play on both Saturday and Sunday, ended with the Blue & Gold still sitting third in the table with just two games of the regular season to go.

The netball Bank Holiday bonanza began with Team Bath making the short journey to the University of Gloucester Arena to face a Stars side full of confidence after an away win over league leaders Manchester Thunder, their third successive victory since losing by ten goals at the Team Bath Arena in March.

However, it was the buoyant Blue & Gold who quickly took control of proceedings as an excellent first-quarter performance saw them open up a 17-12 advantage.

They continued to dominate during the second quarter, stretching their lead to 34-22 to half-time, before superb defensive pressure right across the court restricted Stars to just five goals in the third period as Team Bath went 46-27 clear.

With the following day’s game against Mavericks in mind, the visitors took the opportunity to give all 12 of their players a run-out and Stars were able to close the gap but only to 53-42 as Team Bath registered an important victory.

The only negative was an injury to wing-attack Rachel Shaw, which meant she had to sit out the televised Easter Sunday showdown at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena against a Mavericks side who – following Loughborough Lightning’s victory over Thunder – knew they had to win to maintain any realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals.

A fast, physical and competitive match saw Team Bath, with Mia Ritchie replacing Shaw at WA, open up a 12-8 lead in the closing stages of the first quarter, only for Mavericks to draw level going into the break.

It remained nip and tuck during the second period but Mavericks managed to edge into a 24-22 lead at half-time and the gap stayed at two during an absorbing third quarter.

Team Bath continued to battle during the final 15 minutes but Mavericks clinically took advantage of a couple of errors to gain some breathing space and went on to record a 51-45 victory.

That moves them back to within three points of the Blue & Gold and fourth-placed Lightning, both of whom are in turn just three points behind Thunder – Team Bath’s hosts in their penultimate match on Saturday (April 27, 5pm).

After the Mavericks game, Team Bath Netball Head Coach Jess Thirlby said: “It is small margins in this top five so it is an opportunity lost but we’ve got two more matches left to play.

“We had the opportunities, particularly early on, to stamp a bit of authority on the game and we didn’t which allowed Mavericks to grow in confidence.

“It was very even throughout and the kind of game we were expecting. I think Mavs are fantastic defensively, they close down space really well particularly inside the circle and I think we were left wanting a little bit.

“There were moments in the game where I thought we were very good but ultimately both teams spilled a lot of ball and we ultimately didn’t capitalise enough on Mavs’ errors.

“We’ve got to find a way to close out games like this. The error count is still too high and it’s costing us. We know that and we’re working on it but we’ve got two matches left and it’s time to put it out there now.”

After the trip to Manchester, Team Bath wrap up the regular season with a potentially decisive home match against Vitality Netball Superleague newcomers London Pulse on Saturday, May 4 (6pm centre-pass). Tickets are selling fast for the big match and can be purchased at netball.teambath.com or by calling 0844 888 4412.

Tickets are now available for the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final!

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

Image credit: Andrew Taylor Photography

Thunder vs Pulse - credit Eliza Morgan

Thunder take big win in Glasgow

Manchester Thunder got back to winning ways as they stretched out a huge lead over London Pulse on the Big Easter Weekend in Glasgow to thrash them in their first match of the weekend.

It’s a case of ‘more of the same’ for Thunder who will be hoping to continue Saturday’s momentum into Sunday’s showdown with Loughborough Lightning.

The first half saw Thunder take an early lead but it wasn’t until the second half, and the final quarter in particular, when the Black and Yellows began to rack up the goals to increase that all important goal difference at the top of the table.

Head Coach Karen Greig opted for a slightly different starting seven, admitting that it was a tactical decision in the hope of resting some legs ahead of tomorrow. Starts for Rebekah Airey and Eleonar Cardwell showcased Thunder’s strength in depth superbly and neither were afraid to show their worth. Airey put in a sublime performance at GD, one which earned her Player of the Match.

The second quarter saw much of the same. Thunder closed down Pulse’s attack well, forcing shooters Chiara Semple and Shantal Slater to shoot from long range rather than comfortably under the post. The goals were in abundance at the other end, thanks to the efforts of Cardwell and Kathryn Turner.

Liana Leota shut down the centre court well and shooters Cardwell and Turner held their own against a feisty defensive duo in the form of Vitality Rose Ama Agbeze and Loreen Ngwira.

Thunder headed into the break ten goals to the good, the perfect opportunity for Greig to make some changes and sample some of the bench. Laura Malcolm came on at WD as Amy Carter moved to C and O’Hanlon rested on the bench. Joyce Mvula took her spot at GS as Cardwell rested after a solid first-half performance.

The third quarter saw Thunder stretch out a strong lead and it was becoming apparent that Pulse would be unable to make up the deficit. The mistakes were creeping in and Thunder’s pace was unforgiving in attack. Thunder’s defence forced Pulse to play a different game and the frustrations became evident from the Vitality Netball Superleague newcomers.

The final quarter saw yet more changes from Greig, who brought on Paige Kindred at WD, Emma Dovey enjoyed a run out for 15 minutes at GD, and Ally Thomas made an appearance at GA for the final five minutes. Once again, Thunder had all 12 players out on court.

Airey moved to GK with the arrival of Captain Dovey but her presence was just as great in that position, she bagged her first full game in the Superleague.

Thunder added an impressive 18 goals to the tally in the final quarter, in stark contrast to Pulse’s six. Pulse’s mistakes came thick and fast as the clock wore down and Thunder were able to take full advantage. Dovey flew in with some trademark interceptions and Carter’s speed through the middle of the court caught Pulse off guard on several occasions.

It was a tactically smart display from Greig and her squad, ahead of what is set to be a huge game tomorrow as Thunder take on Loughborough Lightning on Day 2 of the Big Easter Weekend.

Image credit: Eliza Morgan

Wasps vs Storm - credit Clive Jones

Wasps defeat Storm to go top

Wasps Netball moved into first position in the Vitality Netball Superleague with a dominant 76-42 win against Surrey Storm.

Mel Mansfield’s side were firing on all cylinders from the first centre-pass and never trailed in the game.

The hosts used all 12 of their players in the win as they prepare to face Celtic Dragons in the second part of the Easter weekend double-header at Ricoh Arena on Sunday (2pm centre-pass).

Mansfield said: “We’ve been looking at improving our starts and it all clicked today, we started brilliantly and it set the tone for the rest of the game.

“It was the perfect game for us in terms of getting all of our squad out on the court, which was the ideal scenario as we turn our attentions to the Celtic Dragons fixture.

“Jade Clarke was exceptional for us, she was so quick with the ball and her performance was vital in getting our attack going.

“The confidence levels in the squad are really high right now. We’ll focus on the Dragons match now, we don’t underestimate any team in this league and this next match is really important for us.”

Storm started the match with an opening possession turnover and Wasps took advantage to take the lead.

The Black and Golds rushed out to an early six-goal lead. Wasps benefited from mistakes by the visitors, who took five minutes to open their own account through Sigi Burger’s goal.

Fran Williams enjoyed a brilliant first-quarter, producing two interceptions as Wasps stretched their advantage to double figures.

Hannah Knights and Williams continued to disrupt the Storm attack, winning the ball back on multiple occasions – with Rachel Dunn in clinical shooting form at the other end.

Tamsin Moala was introduced for the second-quarter and linked up well with Rachel Dunn to score the first goal of the quarter.

Wasps were firing on all cylinders and played with real confidence throughout quarter two, as Storm struggled to handle the hosts’ fast-paced attack.

Sam May joined the action at Goal Keeper with the Black and Golds leading by 18. Storm rallied to close the half and benefited from good ball movement, but the visitors were unable to significantly reduce Wasps’ lead.

Mansfield utilised her squad’s depth at half-time, with Beth Dix and Josie Huckle introduced from the bench.

But it was Storm who saw the best of the early third-quarter play, finding their shooters in space and scoring two quickfire goals.

Dix impressed in the mid-court in her second Superleague appearance and linked up well with fellow rising star Chloe Essam as Wasps took back control.

The hosts had stretched their advantage to 24 goals by the start of the fourth-quarter.

Wasps continued to press on and showed no sign of letting up during the final quarter, as Moala replaced Dunn at Goal Shooter.

The home side needed to win by 31 goals to leapfrog league leaders Thunder and reached the magic number in the final-quarter, coming away as eventual 76-42 victors.

Image credit: Clive Jones

nat panagarry vs sirens lg

Lightning get back to winning ways

Loughborough Lightning claimed a resounding 59–44 victory over home side Strathclyde Sirens on the opening day of The Big Easter Weekend.

After two tough defeats on the trot, Lightning were eager to boost their confidence and get back to showing the opposition just how good they can be. With the league end just four rounds away and the fight for a top four finish even tighter, Lightning stepped out on court with a huge fight on their hands, in the opening match of the day.

A fairly even start to the match saw Lightning and Sirens level for much of the first five minutes. However, with Clark taking a chance on the edge of the circle, the shots soon began to sink and Lightning pushed past the home side, maintaining a lead throughout the opening quarter.

Far from comfortable, the second quarter began with no changes but a more relaxed and focused side returning to court, eager to prove their dominance in the day’s match-up and increase their lead. As the minutes ticked down Bayman called a halt in the game to make crucial changes to Lightning’s line-up in order to rattle the home side and widen the gap. With Shaw coming on to the centre position, Everitt moving to GD and skipper Panagarry moving to WD, the noise in defence stepped up and so did the pace of the game. The quarter ended with Lightning ahead by five.

Firing on all cylinders, Lightning remained unchanged in the third quarter but changed up a gear and increased their lead. The crucial exchanges between mid-court Panagarry, Shaw and Joseph proved vital in Lightning’s bid to widen the gap. Leaving it to their experience allowed Clark and Cholhok the space to find their comfort zones and continue to tot up the shots. Meanwhile Everitt and Keenan pressed on, attempting to rattle Sirens young shooters and force error. The visitors ended the quarter with a lead of eight.

The final quarter saw Lightning come into their own and use their 11-goal advantage to rest players and give other crucial court time. With two matches to play in just 2 days, Bayman used the lead to test combinations and give her starting seven a vital break. Slotting seamlessly into the game young guns Rosie Harris and Lucy Parize took to court and stepped up to the challenge with ease, causing no fault in Lightning’s dominant final quarter display. Increasing their lead to a whopping 15 goals in the closing seconds of the game, Lightning came out on top as the final whistle sounded.

Singing the praises of her side’s victory, Head Coach Sara Bayman was eager to express the importance of such a huge win.

She said: “It was important that we won today we did want to get players out and it was pleasing that we were able to do that and have a strong finish which gives us momentum going into tomorrow’s match against Thunder.

“I think we battled really well today, Zara Everitt did a really good job in both positions, but we hung in the game when it was tough and that’s credit to everyone, it was a real squad effort.”

Captain and Player of the Match, Nat Panagarry commented on the need for a confidence boost.

She said: “Today was a huge confidence boost, it wasn’t pretty and the first quarter wasn’t good enough from us. We need to get a better start and set the tone. But overall it was good to get the win and get that much needed boost before another tough match tomorrow.”

Lightning are back in action in just 24 hours when they face table toppers Manchester Thunder at 4pm.

Lightning return home for the final time in the regular 2019 season on Saturday 4th May when they welcome Celtic Dragons to Loughborough University. Tickets are selling fast so make sure you secure your seats before it’s too late!

Image credit: Ben Lumley