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Wasps Netball maintain unbeaten record

Wasps Netball came through a tough test with a 54-50 win against title challengers Saracens Mavericks.

Mel Mansfield’s team trailed in the second-quarter and resisted a late comeback from Mavericks to secure their fourth successive victory.

Sophia Candappa was named Player of the Match for the first time in her career.

Mansfield said: “We knew this was going to be our toughest test yet and it was exactly that.

“We’ve had strong third-quarters in each of our last three games and that shined through again.

“In training we have been working hard on our fitness levels and maintaining performance levels.

“When we took the lead in the third-quarter I didn’t feel like we were going to fall behind again.

“Having a tight game like this will be really good for us, the team will have learnt a lot about themselves tonight.”

George Fisher opened the scoring for the hosts on her return to Ricoh Arena but Katie Harris levelled the score within seconds.

A flying intercept from Hannah Knights proved an early highlight, as the home side built toward a six-goal lead.

Mavericks worked their back into the game with ease and were soon within one goal, through some strong play from Sasha Corbin.

Both sides continued to go goal-for-goal until the end of the first-quarter, with Wasps maintaining a slender one-goal advantage.

Mavericks started the second-quarter quickly and took the lead through strong shooting from Kadeen Corbin and supported by a series of turnovers from the home side.

The visitors were faster to every ball over the next five minutes and built a five-goal advantage.

A defensive stop from Wasps Goal Keeper Sam May swung momentum and her side capitalised with back-to-back quickfire goals to bring Wasps level at half-time.

Candappa took to the court for the third-quarter and made an immediate impact, helping the Black and Golds to three unanswered goals.

Wasps pressed their advantage over the next eight minutes – despite physical defending from the visitors attempting to disrupt the hosts’ attacking flow.

The combination of Harris and Rachel Dunn proved unmatchable, exchanging quick passes to work around the Mavericks defence and growing an eight-goal lead.

Fran Williams impressed in the final-quarter against her England teammates Kadeen Corbin and Fisher.

Mavericks surged back and were soon within four, with only Dunn’s immaculate shooting keeping Wasps in front.

But Mansfield’s side managed to hold off the visitors and come away 54-50 winners.

Wasps Netball’s next fixture will see them face Celtic Dragons at Sport Wales National Centre on Monday 18 February (7pm centre-pass).

Attendance: 1,070

Player of the match: Sophia Candappa

Q1: 15-14
Q2: 27-27
Q3: 43-36
Q4: 54-50

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

Used substitutes: Sophia Candappa (WA); Fran Williams (GD)

Mavericks starting seven: GK Razia Quashie; GD Jo Trip; WD Michelle Drayne; C Sasha Corbin; WA Georgia Lees; GA Kadeen Corbin; GS George Fisher

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!

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

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Wasps weather early Storm

Surrey Storm suffered defeat at the hands of Wasps Netball in the fourth round of the Vitality Netball Superleague.

It was a confident start for the home squad, returning to the Sports Park arena off the back of a momentous win over Team Bath earlier in the week.

With the Tom Reseigh Trophy up for grabs, Surrey Storm’s Sigi Burger was first to start off the scoring for the home side, making way for what was to be a very close quarter.

The was ball moved end to end by both teams, full of pace and intention. Storm placed themselves firmly in the driving seat, really taking the game to the defending Superleague Champions. The first quarter ended all square at 16 points a-piece.

Storm continued to get the ball into the hands of their shooting pair Rhea Dixon and Burger, who made the tough shots look effortless from mid to long range in the circle.

It remained close throughout Q2, with the team down by five at the half (29 – 34) and plenty of positives to take with them.

However, it was the third quarter that saw the momentum shift in Wasps’ favour, as they began to pull away with a decisive lead.

Despite a persistent defensive effort from the starting trio Katie Hughes (c), Lorraine Kowalewska and Shadine Van Der Merwe to keep the ball away from Wasps Rachel Dunn, it was not to be as the visiting team orchestrated to a 10-point lead by the end of Q3.

The final quarter left Surrey Storm with plenty of work to do. Despite some impressive long shots from Laura Morton and relentless defence from Lorraine Kowalewska, it proved too much for the girls in blue and they had to settle for defeat and watch the Tom Reseigh Trophy return to Coventry.

Shadine Van Der Merwe walked away from her first home game for Surrey Storm as Player of the Match as she dominated in her defensive role tonight. Speaking to her after the game she said, “it’s good to be back and wearing the duck-egg blue dress. Thank you to the fans and we’ll be back stronger.”

Bath v Dragons

Stembridge excited for televised game

Anna Stembridge says she is “super excited” ahead of Team Bath Netball’s first home game of the 2019 Vitality Superleague season – Monday’s televised showdown against Surrey Storm.

The Sitec-sponsored Blue & Gold go into the match (7pm centre-pass) as the only team to have won their opening two Superleague fixtures so far thanks to encouraging victories over Celtic Dragons at Super 10 and Strathclyde Sirens in Scotland.

Head Coach Stembridge was particularly pleased with the performance and result in the latter game as a Team Bath squad without England stars Eboni Usoro-Brown and Serena Guthrie overcame a strong fourth-quarter fightback from Sirens to win 55-45.

“Sirens is always a hard place to go but we produced a performance of real grit and character,” she said. “It was really impressive to see our young squad step up and show such strength and composure, it felt like a real step forward compared to previous seasons.”

University of Bath student Imogen Allison wore the captain’s armband for the Sirens game and led by example with another excellent performance at wing-defence, building on her player of the match display in the 58-41 victory over Dragons.

“Eboni and Serena are co-captains this season but we have leaders right across the squad,” said Stembridge. “Imogen was captain against Sirens, as she was for the Fast 5 tournament, and she really delivered both in leading the team and in her own personal performance.”

While Usoro-Brown and Guthrie were helping England finish runners-up in a world-class Quad Series last weekend, the rest of the Team Bath squad kept things ticking over with a training session against the Knights national men’s team.

“It’s the second time that Knights have trained with us this season and the sessions have been of a really good standard both times,” Stembridge added. “It was a great opportunity to work on different combinations that we haven’t had chance to use in the first couple of games.

“We are super excited for our first home game of the season, nothing beats playing in the Team Bath Arena and we can’t wait to see our home fans again.

“Storm have lost their first two matches but they certainly cannot be underestimated, especially as they will have their two South African players [Sigi Burger and Shadine Van Der Merwe] back. We know they will definitely give us another big test but we are looking forward to it.”

Doors open for the Storm game at 6pm and tickets are available to purchase here.

Photo Credit: Eliza Morgan