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Saracens Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball

Wasps Netball opened up a nine-point gap on fifth-place Saracens Mavericks with a 58-51 win in Milton Keynes.

The Black and Golds trailed following the first-quarter but Mel Mansfield’s side came back strongly in the second period to build a decisive advantage.

The hard-fought win sees Wasps go level with Manchester Thunder at the top of the Superleague and take a big step towards a top-four finish.

Mansfield said: “We said this was a big game and it’s a really important win for us to pick up.

“I was really impressed with the defensive effort from the entire team out there but particularly the circle defence.

“We played a really smart game and adapted well to the changes Mavericks made in their attack.

“Fran Williams and Hannah Knights were excellent for us. They were aggressive and were really brave forcing a lot of turnovers.

“We’re in a good position now, being joint-top on points at this stage of the season. We’ve got two big games at Easter at Ricoh Arena and we’re looking forward to them.”

The hosts were fast out of the blocks and rushed out to an early three-goal lead.

Fran Williams forced an interception to halt Mavericks’ momentum and Rachel Dunn capitalised at the other end.

Mavericks were able to open up a four-goal lead, but Wasps immediately reined them back in, inspired by Bongi Msomi’s mid-court creativity.

The hosts pushed the ball back up the court to score before the buzzer and take a one-goal lead into the second-quarter.

Wasps scored first in the second-quarter through Dunn to level the scores and soon the Black and Golds led by two after a quickfire double.

Amy Flanagan and Hannah Knights produced interceptions on successive possessions to give their side a foothold – capitalising on sloppy play from the hosts.

Mavericks composed themselves, with ex-Wasp George Fisher enjoying a clinical shooting quarter, going goal-for-goal with Dunn.

The visitors finished the half strongly with the duo of Dunn and Katie Harris exerting their influence to help Wasps to an eight-goal advantage.

Mavericks forced two turnovers as they looked to reduce the deficit at the start of the third-quarter.

Sasha and Kadeen Corbin linked up well for the hosts, but Wasps kept working to limit attacking opportunities and were able to maintain their lead.

Mavericks enjoyed the best of the action, finding their shooters well, yet still trailed by seven goals as the fourth-quarter began.

Wasps started the final-quarter firing on all cylinders and within minutes led by 12, with Hannah Knights forcing a contact call to gain a key turnover and Jade Clarke following up with a tipped pass for the interception.

A late rally from Mavericks saw the hosts register three unanswered goals to put the pressure on Wasps with a minute to play, but the reigning champions kept their composure to secure a 58-51 victory.

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!

Image credit: Steve Porter

Mvs v Storm photo credit Steve Porter

Mavericks ride out Storm

Saracens Mavericks staged a pulsating fightback to overturn a five-goal half-time deficit and return to winning ways with a vital 58-50 victory over Surrey Storm on Saturday night.

The win returned Mavericks back to second place in the Vitality Netball Superleague table, with only goal difference separating the sides from second to fifth.

With semi-final positions in the balance, Mavericks couldn’t afford to be drowned by the Storm.

In their penultimate game at HSV this season, the hosts gave another capacity crowd a thrilling start to proceedings.

Nothing could separate the two teams in the opening quarter as the old foes battled goal for goal. A strong finish to Q1 had the visitors in front by two with shooters Sigi Berger and Yaz Hodge-England sitting on an impressive 100% shooting percentage and a 15-17 lead.

A game of hot potato broke out in the second quarter after Kadeen Corbin’s magical intercept only led to a steady stream of errors, neither side seemingly wanting to take control of the action.

At WD for Storm, Shadine Van Der Merwe was having a sensational game. A number of intercepts and tips halted the Mavericks attacking flow.

Sasha Corbin and Georgia Lees were fighting doggedly for possession but loose play through court resulted in turnover ball and missed opportunities.

England defender Razia Quashie came to life in the back end of the quarter, turning over fantastic one on one ball, but again Mavericks failed to reward the hard work and went into the half-time break trailing 26-31.

For Q3 the changes were rung with Mavericks injecting the cool head of Karyn Bailey at GS and Lindsay Keable at GD.

Jo Trip moved across to WD and took an intercept within the first five seconds, the ball transitioned through the attack to Bailey in the circle and, with immediate effect there was an air of calm in the Mavericks camp.

George Fisher, now in at GA, showed her true class and leadership as she fed ball with grace to her counterpart Bailey as well as sinking an impressive 11 from 11 in the third quarter to drag the home side back into the contest.

The experience and height of Keable and Quashie started to create problems for the Storm attack, limiting them to just nine goals in the quarter. This was supported by the relentless work of Michelle Drayne and Trip in front, creating a host of ball winning opportunities.

An incredible run from Mavericks had the crowd bouncing as they roared back with an impressive 18-9 quarter score to snatch a 44-40 lead.

With the momentum firmly in Mavericks corner, the team was unchanged for the final quarter.

A gear change in the Mavericks defence saw the trio of Drayne, Trip and Keable lock down the centre pass line like night club security, they had trainers on and therefore they weren’t coming in!

This allowed Fisher to take advantage of the hard work and an early intercept for the shooter was indicative of the dominance the team in purple and black had found.

The composure and stamina of Drayne, combined with her endless availability, helped secure the win for Mavericks and the Player of the Match award for herself.

Kat Ratnapala said post-match: “Today Storm had returning South African players, who were unavailable in the first time we played them, so we knew we needed to deliver a strong performance to take the points.

“We started off really slow and hesitant with the ball but definitely grew into the game and with a powerful 3rd quarter of 18-9, I’m pleased that we showed ourselves that we can come from behind and right some wrongs in quarters and when it matters.”

Saracens Mavericks are next in action in a crucial clash against Loughborough Lightning this Saturday.

The next home fixture will be the showcase fixture against 2018 Superleague Champions Wasps at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes. Tickets for this match are available to buy here.

POTM: Michelle Drayne
Photo credit: Steve Porter

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Team Bath fightback to climb into top four

Team Bath Netball showed tremendous character to turn a six-goal deficit into a 51-47 victory over Strathclyde Sirens tonight as Blue & Gold supporters were treated to another rip-roaring Vitality Superleague clash at the Team Bath Arena.

The noisy four-figure crowd saw the Sitec-sponsored Blue & Gold struggle to find a way through Sirens’ rock-solid defence during a feisty and physical first half, which saw the visitors lead 15-9 at the end of the opening quarter and hang on to a two-goal advantage going into the interval.

Team Bath stuck with the gameplan, though, and eventually managed to pull ahead in the third quarter before seeing out a hard-fought victory – their fourth in a row as they keep up their chase for a top-four finish.

Head Superleague Coach Anna Stembridge said: “We knew it was going to be tough and credit to the girls for grinding out the win and building from quarter to quarter. I thought defensively we put in a great shift right across the court and I’m proud of the girls tonight.”

England star Serena Guthrie played a key role in the comeback with some outstanding interceptions and was named as Genuine Car Services Player of the Match.

“It’s not easy to come back against a classy side like Sirens so we’re happy to come out with the win but there is a lot of learning for us to take from the game,” she said.

“I have to say thank you so much to the fans for getting behind the team in every game this year, it has been amazing – especially for me as I have been away for so long, I love being back out there in front of the Bath crowd.”

Guthrie was the only change to Saturday’s starting seven against Celtic Dragons but, as in that match, Team Bath struggled to make the most of turnover ball in the first period.

The Sirens attack of Bethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall were clinical at the other end and it was the visitors who went into the break with an impressive 15-9 lead.

Team Bath were having to really work hard to find space in the Sirens circle and there was no let up in the defensive pressure during a physical second quarter but the hosts, with the vocal encouragement of the crowd ringing in their ears, continued to battle away and began to reap some reward.

A four-goal burst from Sophie Drakeford-Lewis saw Team Bath – who introduced Abi Robson at WD – cut the lead to two and that was how it stayed for the remainder of the half as the teams went blow for blow, with Sirens holding on to a 24-22 advantage.

The visitors made the brighter start to the third period and stretched their lead to 28-24 but Team Bath were fired up now and, inspired by some stunning interceptions from Guthrie and Summer Artman, worked their way back into the match once again.

With the ball now being fizzed in to Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane in attack, Team Bath had the crowd on their feet as they drew level at 32-32 before taking the lead for the first time since the second minute.

They soon found themselves 35-32 up but Sirens were not going to let the match get away from them and clawed their way back to 36-36 with a minute of the quarter remaining.

It needed another flying Guthrie intercept to regain the momentum for Team Bath and two Drakeford-Lewis goals ensured they led 38-36 going into the final period.

It remained tense and tight in the opening stages of that quarter but, as Artman and Usoro-Brown turned up the defensive pressure, Team Bath were finally able to gain some breathing space. Rachel Shaw and Robson were also working tirelessly as the hosts saw out a hard-earned four-goal victory.

The Blue & Gold are back at home on Monday (March 25) when they play host to South West rivals Severn Stars in a rearranged derby fixture. Centre-pass is 7pm and tickets are available at netball.teambath.com.

 

Match stats

Team Bath Netball starting 7: GS Kim Commane, GA Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, WA Rachel Shaw, C Serena Guthrie, WD Imogen Allison, GD Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK Summer Artman. Replacements: Leila Thomas, Abi Robson, Mia Ritchie, Laura Rudland, Beryl Friday.

Strathclyde Sirens starting 7: GS Bethan Goodwin, GA Niamh McCall, WA Nicola McCleary, C Gia Abernethy, WD Claire Maxwell, GD Emily Nicholl, GK Hayley Mulheron. Replacements: Emma Barrie, Kelly Boyle, Ella Gibbons.

Quarter scores (Team Bath first): Q1 9-15. Q2 22-24 (13-9). Q3 38-36 (16-12). Q4 51-47 (13-11).

Photo Credit: Bryn Vaile for Matchtight.

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Thunder keep pressure on league leaders

Manchester Thunder took the spoils in the hotly anticipated game against second-placed Saracens Mavericks 49-57

Manchester Thunder were slow out of the blocks with the Hertfordshire-based side finding goal shooter George Fisher way to easily and they edge the first quarter 16-15.

The second quarter started in the same vein with  Mavericks building an early five-goal lead. But the black and yellows were in no mood to let Mavericks start the party. They started to find their form in the second quarter as the new combination with Laura Malcolm at wing attack started to gel. Thunder were hustling and hassling wherever they could and chipped away at Mavericks lead. Involving Mvula more in the game enabled Thunder to go into the half time break with a two-goal advantage 28-30.

At half time neither team were bold enough to make any changes and who could blame them in such a tight game. Karen Greig’s side slowly turned the screw on Mavericks and started to build a lead with O’Hanlon and Malcolm running the show in the middle and Kerry Almond setting the tone with two driving intercepts urging her team on. Meanwhile, Emma Dovey was having a battle and a half with Kadeen Corbin. Mavericks reacted by bringing on Steph Collard at wing defence and moving Michelle Drayne to centre and Georgia Lees to wing attack. The changes were ineffective and Thunder were in control with the scores at 38-45 going into the final break.

The crowd did their best to cheer their team on and the atmosphere was electric, Thunder were feeding off it – always seeming to perform better as underdogs – and they increased their lead to nine. Mavericks coach Kat Ratnapala had seen enough and with a last throw of the dice brought Karyn Bailey on at goal shooter with Fisher moving out to goal attack. The calming influence of Bailey went in Mavericks favour as they chipped away at Thunder’s lead. But with the experience of O’Hanlon and Malcolm combining with Turner, Thunder calmly sealed the win and took the points home to Manchester with them. Final score: 49-57.

Head coach Karen Greig was pleased with her team’s performance and said: “We were slow out of the blocks in the first quarter and I think it took us seven or eight minutes to adjust to what Mavericks were doing. Once we did adjust and we turned on our game plan I thought we hassled really well, we played possession well.  The consistency let’ us down in parts but overall it was a great team performance.”

“We knew we were going to feel uncomfortable and we knew Mavericks did make us feel uncomfortable, but we coped with that well not like in previous games. All seven out on court and those on the bench had each other backs. It was hard work and ultimately they did a great job to come through and take a convincing win in the end.”

Saracens Mavericks starting 7:

GS Fisher GA K Corbin WA S Corbin C Lees WD Drayne GD Tripp GK Quashie

Manchester Thunder starting 7:

GS Mvula GA Turner WA Malcolm C O’Hanlon WD Carter GD Dovey GK Almond

Photo credit: Clive Jones