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Team Bath out to build on strong start

Team Bath Netball will be looking to build on their positive start to the 2019 Vitality Superleague season when they make the long journey to Glasgow to face Strathclyde Sirens on Friday (January 11, 7.30pm).

The Blue & Gold produced impressive performances across the court as they overcame Celtic Dragons 58-41 in the first game of the season-opening Super 10 event at Arena Birmingham on Saturday.

Great defensive pressure from Summer Artman, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Serena Guthrie and player of the match Imogen Allison provided the platform for Team Bath to produce some fluent and dynamic attacking play as they opened up a 19-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Dragons closed the gap to three with a spirited response but, with Rachel Shaw and her fellow mid-court players linking up brilliantly with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane in attack, Team Bath continued to create plenty of chances which were clinically taken as they stretched their half-time advantage to 31-18.

The Blue & Gold took the opportunity to make some changes in the second half, with Australian shooter Beryl Friday and England U19 captain Chartie Curtis – a University of Bath Economics student – both coming on for their Vitality Netball Superleague debuts.

They helped build on the lead as Team Bath won the third and fourth quarters, 14-11 and 13-12 respectively, to wrap up an encouraging start to the season.

Team Bath Netball Head Coach Jess Thirlby was pleased with the performance overall but said there was plenty of scope for improvement in the weeks ahead.

“I think there were some moments of magic in there but it’s the first run-out of the season and we don’t expect to be the finished article,” she said. “We have some fine-tuning to do ahead of Sirens but we were really pleased with the start, we just weren’t as clinical as we could have been in the final stages of quarters three and four.

“I think collectively our defence was fantastic. We created turnover opportunities throughout the court and there is an attacking mentality amongst our whole team, we want to win the ball back and get it down the other end of the court.

“We’re really pleased with the changes that we made and the players who came on. They earned the right to be on court with their performances during pre-season and they all made an impact. We weren’t quite able to get a consistent team performance across a quarter and that’s something we’ll be looking to address.”

Player of the match Allison added: “We’re really happy with that performance. It’s been a long pre-season, so it’s been good to get the first game out of the way and to get the win.”

Next up is a visit to Scottish franchise Sirens, who showed why they are being tipped as potential top-four contenders this season when they defeated Surrey Storm 56-38 at Super 10.

“We are looking forward to what we know will be a challenge when we visit Sirens,” Thirlby said. “They have had some changes in the off season and there’s no ignoring the groundbreaking signing of Cat Tuivaiti who is arguably one of the best shooters in the world.

“We know they will be feeling confident after a good opening win against Surrey Storm but we are focusing very much on ourselves, the brand of netball we want to play and the level of performance we know we are capable of.

“We will keep demanding that from each other in training this week. There’s a positive vibe amongst the team and a great atmosphere and we can’t wait to get back out there.”

The Sirens match comes before a mini break for the Vitality International Series, which gets under way in Liverpool on Sunday when England face New Zealand (6pm).

Commonwealth champions Guthrie – who will captain the Roses – and Usoro-Brown have both been named in the 12-strong squad for the series, which also includes matches in London against South Africa and Australia.

Team Bath’s first home game of the season is against Surrey Storm on Monday, January 28 (7pm). Tickets for that match and all the other fixtures at the Team Bath Arena are on sale now – visit netball.teambath.com/tickets for details.

Image credit: Eliza Morgan

Thunder

Thunder hold off Mavericks at Super 10

Manchester Thunder got 2019 off to a strong start as they overcame newly-named Saracens Mavericks in the final fixture of the day at Super 10 at Arena Birmingham.

Thunder got off to a flying start and established an early 5-3 lead but the Corbin sisters and George Fisher combined well for Mavericks to keep them within touching distance in the opening stages.

 

Both teams were leaving everything out there on court but it was Thunder who edged out to a four-goal lead (16-12) at the end of the opening quarter as they capitalised on a Mavericks miss.

Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey made their mark in the second quarter as they defended tenaciously and turned over the ball time and time again with several timely interceptions.

And their efforts were rewarded at the other end through the ever-reliable Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula on target.

Thunder continued to exert immense pressure, establishing an eight-goal cushion (30-22) by halftime and then stretching out to a 10-goal advantage (35-25) in the third quarter.

Mavericks kept battling and pushing Thunder hard though, cutting the deficit to six heading into the final 15.

Two-time champions Thunder, and their shooters in particular, remained calm and composed under pressure in the final quarter.

Despite numerous attempts to get back on levels terms, including a last-gasp burst of unanswered goals, Mavericks were unable to fully impose themselves on the game and fell short.

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Sirens secure convincing win over Storm

Strathclyde Sirens secured a comprehensive 56-38 victory over Surrey Storm in the VNSL Season opener at Netball Super 10.

The Surrey side struggled to compete with Sirens’ Cat Tuivaiti’s crowd-pleasing tricks and flicks in the shooting circle as the shooter couldn’t seem to miss a shot.

Despite some rapid attacking ball movement through the court from Mikki Austin and Yaz Parsons to the edge of the circle, Storm couldn’t convert the work from the centre third into goals and headed to the dressing rooms at half-time with an 11-goal deficit and all the work to do.

Sirens picked up where they left off in the third quarter with a combination of brilliant pressure, nice through-court play and accurate shooting – sprinkled with a touch of Tuivaiti flair – helped them extend their lead.

The second half saw some positive defensive work from Storm captain Katy Hughes (previously Holland) and Lorraine Kowalewska as they tried to keep Tuaviti at bay, earning several turnovers but to little avail.

The final quarter was the opportunity for Storm’s younger players to get a run out on court as Laura Morton, Alima Priest and Jessica Dale all made their official VNSL debuts.

Speaking after the game, Director of Netball Mikki Austin admitted “we gave away a lot of cheap balls and we cannot afford to do that in this league.

“We’re great at playing with freedom and flair, but we lost our confidence to do that at the start of the game.

“We’re here to compete and not just to make up the numbers, so we cannot afford to lose that confidence in future.”

Looking on the positives of the game, Austin reflected: “Defensively we did some good stuff to keep them separated at times, and attacking wise we were really smart in moments, but we weren’t consistent enough.”

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Pulse announce themselves on VNSL stage

In a game dominated by the defence and some disjointed mid-court play, match 3 saw a battle between the newly formed London Pulse and a rejigged Severn Stars. Both teams fielding starting sevens with a mix of youth and experience. The first quarter was a nervy one for both teams lacking in free-flowing netball and struggling to pass to one another. London Pulse pulled ahead on several occasions by a turnover only to be pegged back soon after. Physical defence from both teams saw several players hitting the deck before a late turnover edged Pulse ahead at the end of the quarter to lead 15-13.

The second quarter started in a similar manner to the first with Pulse starting to show signs of more flowing netball on court, finding it easier than Stars to bring the ball to the circle edge. They took an early five-goal lead (20-15) before the errors of the first quarter crept back in to reduce the lead back to just two goals (20-18). Play remained scrappy with neither team managing to really break free from the opposition defence. Although passing errors and lack of on court communication were making the defenders’ jobs far easier. The changes made to the Pulse defence end in this quarter saw Stars restricted to just nine goals. But they failed to capitalise and only increased the gap by two goals in this quarter to lead 26-22 at half time.

Stars rang in the changes in mid-court in quarter three with Iona Darroch moving to centre and Cara Lee Mosely on at WA. This had an immediate impact with the lead narrowing to just two goals within the first couple of minutes. After going goal-for-goal for a few minutes the defence once again got the upper hand – this time for Severn Stars with two converted turnovers levelling the game at 34-34. Another swift turnover then saw them edge in front with the quarter ending 38-35.

The frantic pace continued into the final quarter with both sides still struggling to maintain their attacking connections and find their shooters. Momentum was briefly on the side of Stars as they turned the ball over to take a five-goal lead at 40-35. But, once again, the errors crept in and Pulse returned the turnover favours to claw their way back. Halfway through the quarter the game remained in the balance with just two goals separating the teams – Stars still leading 44-42. Yet another turnover, however, and the game was back level at 45-45. With just two minutes to go the two teams were still locked together at 49-49. In a finale that worthy of the chaotic nature of the first 58 minutes, Georgia Rowe missed from close range to give Pulse the chance to pull ahead. Chiara Semple held her nerve to score and a converted centre pass as Pulse snatched a 51-49 win.

Commenting on their win after the game, Pulse GA Chiara Semple reflected on a hard-fought game. She said: “We had a really great start and showed the crowd and the world what Pulse Netball is all about, that we’re not going to give up until the final whistle. But we made life hard for ourselves. We were up by five then they were up by five. It was only in the last 2 minutes that we really dug in. Even though it was our shooters who got it in at the end, it was our defence who got it back for us. Lots of us still need to work on our fitness and to keep pushing on so that we don’t get in a position like that again so when we get up by five (goals) we then go up by 10 and stay consistent throughout the whole game.”