Strathclyde Sirens Vs Loughborough Lightning

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Dragons beat Sirens in front of biggest home crowd

Celtic Dragons took to a brand-new Welsh Netball court at Cardiff Metropolitan University’s National Indoor Athletics Centre to face their fierce Scottish rivals in Round 14, knowing that a win was vital to keep pressure on the mid-table as the season enters its final phase.

Despite a good save in the first minute from Stacian Facey, it was a scrappy start for Dragons whose second drive from centre pass was turned over by the visitors. However, accuracy was an issue for the Sirens’ shooters and Dragons were able to power their attack with some rebounds off goal at the defensive end. Nia Jones was able to effectively organise the defence of Sirens’ centre pass and she earned her first interception of the afternoon and helped Dragons take a narrow advantage after the first fifteen.

The home side made a very assertive start to the second period, with Bethan Dyke darting around the court to find plenty of options for the Dragons drive. Dyke’s feeds into Kalifa McCollin kept the Sirens’ heads spinning all afternoon and despite the increasing levels of physicality in the contest, she showed no signs of the ACL injury that ended her season last term. Dee Bolakoro was also able to make a couple of trademark interceptions and Kyra Jones performed particularly well in defence and by half time the lead had grown further still.

In the third quarter both sides seemed to lose a bit of fluency. Nevertheless, Chelsea Lewis remained strong under the goal and despite having some opportunities to make an impression on the scoreboard, Sirens remained adrift. Dyke continued to lead the Dragons attack and McCollin was also able to shoot some fancy long-rangers.

Suzy Drane came on for Dyke at the start of the fourth quarter, her first start since an injury in the warm-up against Stars a fortnight ago. Dragons played with patience, Kyra Jones showing good control and decision making at the circle edge. Another tip from Facey saw the visitors’ last real chance to stage a late comeback go astray and Clare Elsley came on for Nia Jones as the game entered its final stages. Elsley made an immediate impact as she set up a great feed into McCollin as Dragons closed out the game and took a much-needed win in front of their biggest home crowd of the season.

Head coach Tania Hoffman said: “I’m very happy with that win. The girls ground that win out in what was a very physical game.

“We’ve still got to learn that when we take a lead we have to keep going, but overall I thought both our defence and attack did very well.”

Results elsewhere meant that Dragons remain in eight position with a huge weekend of fixtures ahead as the squad travels to Coventry to face both Mavericks and Wasps in the ‘Big Easter Weekend.’

Tickets are still 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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Fan Focus: Jamie Burch

In March, Celtic Dragons travelled to Glasgow to take on Strathclyde Sirens. It was Dragons’ furthest away trip of the season and they wouldn’t have been expecting big away following, however, one fan did the job of a hundred and cheered on his side to a fantastic victory.

Jamie Burch took on the home crowd and made his voice heard over the top of hundreds of Sirens fans. His enthusiasm and encouragement didn’t go unnoticed with several Dragons players taking to social media to thank Jamie for his support.

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Ahead of the reverse fixture, we caught up with Jamie to find out more about his story, how he thinks the Vitality Netball Superleague season will go and his love of netball.

So, firstly how does a Dragons fan end up in Glasgow?

I’m currently studying Acting at Drama School at the Royal Conservatoire of Acting.

How long have you followed netball and Dragons for?

I’ve been following the netball since I was 14, I’m now 22. I’ve been a Dragons fan for over 3 years.

How was it being one of the only Dragon fans at the venue?

I genuinely think I was the only Dragons fan there that night, which is understandable as it was so far.

I didn’t really just think about it. If anything I think it would have only made the Dragons play better having the loudest Welshman there.  I was competing against groups of people, and school children. I was on my feet. People were recording me and Facebook living me.

That was Dragons’ first win over Sirens (third attempt) and the players reached out on social media to say how much they appreciated your support. How does it feel knowing you contributed to their victory?

Well, I had no clue until my friend who’s in the Welsh Netball set-up sent me a screenshot. I was grateful, was just doing my job for the girls. They do their job, I do mine.

What do you remember from the game? Is there a particular moment that stands out?

I just remember the umpire telling our Jamaican GK Stacey Facey to tidy up and me shouting “and again Facey!”

Do you have a favourite player on the Dragons side and why?

It has to be Nia Jones for me, she’s so tenacious and scrappy and is always contesting. She’s so vocal and a real character in the league, on and off the court. She is our very own Sharni Layton who I adore.

Who do you think will finish in the top four of the Vitality Netball Superleague?

Wasps, Saracens, Manchester Thunder, Team Bath if they get Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usuro-Brown back in the squad, but if not Loughborough Lightning.

You’re a huge netball fan, what is it about netball that you love so much?

I always played it in primary school, stopped at high school and sometimes play mixed league. For me, I love the speed, the strategic side of the game and the player on player marking.

Everyone always questions when I say netball. But once they watch it and see these women put their bodies on the line they take it back. Strong women killing it!

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!

Image 1 - credit Andrew Taylor

Stars defeat Sirens to secure back-to-back wins

Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, praised her side as they secured their first back-to-back wins of the season last night (April 6), defeating Strathclyde Sirens 49-40 at the University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena.

Stars had maintained a narrow lead from the early part of the match, but in the last quarter were able to pull away decisively when they needed to in order to secure the win.

Bird said: “I’m really happy with our first back-to-back win. I was very pleased with how the girls finished the last quarter as they had a run of nine.”

Stars, who were initially hasty in their attack, struggled to push through the court, which allowed Sirens to secure the first goal of the game. During the first quarter there were lots of defensive contacts from both sides, with Sirens putting on early pressure. However, after some incredibly quick centre passes and long feeds from centre Lucy Harris, Stars managed to secure the first quarter leading by two, at 13-11.

The team managed to maintain their early lead after a successful attack finished by goal shooter Georgia Rowe, but Sirens persisted and Stars found it difficult to penetrate the attacking third, which kept the score close throughout. Sam Cook and Ella Powell-Davies maintained a strong defence, forcing Sirens to play the ball around much more, which saw Stars maintain their narrow lead going into the half-time interval, 26-25.

After a close first half, Stars’ new signing, Leah Kennedy, made her debut at goal keeper. Bird made further changes, moving Cook to goal defence and Jodi-Ann Ward to wing defence. Although the team maintained an active defence, with Cook securing six turnovers, Sirens did not let go. There were three minutes of no goals with turnovers at both ends, as Stars struggled to get the ball to Rowe. The last 30 seconds of the third quarter were frantic, as both teams tried to force the long ball into their shooters, both unsuccessfully, leaving the score at 36-34.

There were no changes heading into the final quarter for Stars, who successfully secured a run of four, but Sirens disrupted their flow by swapping out their centre and wing defence and called for a new ball. After some great feeds by Harris and Rowe alongside a strong defence by Cook, who secured three clean rebounds in succession, Stars pulled ahead and secured their 49-40 victory.

Severn Stars will face top of the League Manchester Thunder on Saturday (April 13) away.  Their next home game is against third placed Team Bath on Saturday April 20, at the University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena.

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

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!

Image credit: Andrew Taylor

Ella Powell-Davies - clivejonespr.com

Powell-Davies can’t wait to play in front of home crowd

Severn Stars defender Ella Powell-Davies says she cannot wait to play in front of her home crowd during this Saturday’s fixture against Strathclyde Sirens.

The Severn Stars take on Scottish outfit Strathclyde Sirens on Saturday 6 April (6pm centre pass) at the University of Gloucestershire Sports Arena.

After a final quarter comeback against Celtic Dragons last Saturday (30 March) in Cardiff, Stars will be looking to follow this up with another win against the team who are one place below them in the Vitality Netball Superleague table.

Powell-Davies said: “We had a great comeback against Dragons, showing true grit, and that gives us confidence heading into this weekend as we know we can put out strong performances and we are getting better game by game. We have had a great training week this week looking at how we can improve and keep growing as a team. We are looking to focus on the process and our game plan to put out a strong performance against Sirens.”

Twenty-year-old Ella, who found her love for netball when playing for Chosen Hill School in Churchdown, is looking forward to impressing in her home city of Gloucester. “I love being able to play in Gloucester. My friends and family always come to support me and it really motivates me to want to play better and put out a good performance.”

Powell-Davies, says Severn Stars are a very different team to what they were last year. She added: “The thing I love about Stars is how close we all are as a team. We have progressed so much this year in our performances and we are a hard working group who always want to be better. We are excited for this weekend and I can’t wait to see everyone at the Arena.”

Severn Stars have also taken steps to bolster their squad by signing former England Rose, Leah Kennedy. With Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Jodie Gibson still out of action following a knee operation earlier this year, the coaches were keen to bring in the services of Kennedy who has previously played Superleague Netball for Strathclyde Sirens and Team Northumbria. Twenty-six-year-old Kennedy, who plays GD/GK, played for the England Roses in 2016 and 2017, as well as the Fast5 England Squad in 2016, before taking a year out due to a shoulder injury.

Newcastle-based Kennedy said: “I am so excited to be part of the Severn Stars squad. The buzz around the Stars this season and the setup is something I can’t wait to be involved in.  I’m very lucky that I know quite a few of the players from my time with Roses.  I played with Sam [Cook] in the circle when I made my England debut.  Also I am very excited to be back in a team with George [Georgia Rowe], from when she played with me at Team Northumbria for a season a few years ago.  It’s great to see how she has grown at Stars and I can’t wait to catch up with her and the rest of the squad.”

Addressing the upcoming match, she added: “Most of the Sirens squad haven’t changed since last season and so I reckon I can bring my experience of training weekly with the girls and knowing how to counteract what they do.”

Tickets for the Severn Stars home games can be purchased via www.ticketline.co.uk/netball-superleague-severn-stars#bio

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!

Image credit: clivejonespr.com