Category: London Pulse

VNSL 2021: Team review – London Pulse

THE 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL)  season is officially done and dusted meaning it is now time for our postseason reviews. Next up is London Pulse, a side which came into the season with plenty of potential, but was shaken up from the get-go and took a long time to adjust to the rigours of the competition.

Season form: 6-14 (8th)

While the Pulse had a heap of potential this season, it took them a long time to find their form and what worked for them across the court. The side had no shortage of international and homegrown talent, however the players just did not appear to gel on court early in the season despite their formidable individuals. Sigi Burger had a heap of pressure piled on her shoulders from the get-go with Lefebre Rademan shaky to start while Kira Rothwell was slightly inconsistent, however by the latter stage of the season the side had its front-end all but figured out with Olivia Tchine proving she was capable of stepping up when Burger was injured, and earning more court time as the season went on. The midcourt was probably the point of difference, providing strength early in the season and reliability later on, although it was the back-end which really stood up when it mattered as youngster Funmi Fadoju picked up where she left off last year, alongside Halimat Adio before the co-captain went down with injury, as well as Lindsay Keable and Zara Everitt. While it was not quite the season the Pulse hoped for, they certainly sent warning signs to the top sides on a number of occasions with three wins in their final five matches, and relatively close margins with some of the top sides once they got over their slow start. 

Best win: Def. Saracens Mavericks 46-33, Round 19

Pulse ended up with a number of impressive performances throughout the season, though there is no doubt their Round 19 victory over Mavericks takes the cake as the best of the best, registering a 13-goal victory to complete their season on a high and ensure Mavericks did not make the finals. The Mavericks registered more intercepts and deflections, however the Pulse proved cleaner with ball in hand and made the most of their opportunities and Mavericks’ fatigue. Ashleigh Dekker’s workrate was critical in the clash, while Tchine (35 goals) and Rademan (11) were accurate to post leaving little to chance with their accuracy and combination proving hard to combat. Michelle Drayne and Everitt combined for four turnovers while Fadoju and Keable were hard to stop, as Fadoju’s spark saw her pile on four turnovers (six deflections, one intercept) and goal keeper Keable’s reliability earned her four turnovers (four deflections, two intercepts) at the back. Also on the Pulse’s list of strong performances was their Round 10/11 loss to Team Bath, keeping the side to just 37 goals, whilst also challenging Thunder, Lightning and Wasps in consecutive weeks, losing by less than 10 goals to each of the three sides.

Standout player: Funmi Fadoju

Most Improved: Olivia Tchine

Of the plethora of talented players at the Pulse’s disposal this season, any number could have been the standout or most improved, making it hard to come to a conclusion. Given her livewire ways and ability to pluck ball out of the air on a consistent basis, it is Fadoju who gets the nod as the standout with the youngster consistently impressing. Her speed, endurance and aerial ability is a huge weapon for the Pulse, and proved to be a gamechanger on a number of occasions, stepping up when required – and even when not. Fadoju’s willingness to challenge for the loose ball and cleanly contest no matter the opposition was another key attribute, able to create something out of nothing and finishing with an average of 1.8 intercepts, four deflections and three turnovers for the season. Tchine on the other hand, appeared to come out of nowhere and stood tall at the post whenever she took the court. While still young, the goaler stepped up to the plate and piled on the offensive pressure time and time again, willing to go to post and rarely shying away from the contest. Averaging an accuracy of 85 per cent going to post, Tchine was rarely phased and used her great vision up the court and drives into space to wreak havoc in the Pulse front-end.

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 20 final standings

THE 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague was touted as one of the best seasons in the league’s history this year, and no wonder why with every team producing some huge performances and one of the greatest races to finals in many years, with such an even crop of sides vying for content. No team was untouchable, and whilst there were standout franchises in the competition, there were certain players who stepped up to propel their side to new heights despite where their team fell on the ladder.

ROUND 19 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-2)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-3)
  3. Manchester Thunder (16-3)
  4. Strathclyde Sirens (10-7-2)
  5. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  6. Saracens Mavericks (10-8-1)
  7. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  8. London Pulse (6-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-16)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-17)

ROUND 19 LADDER

  1. Loughborough Lightning (17-3)
  2. Manchester Thunder (17-3)
  3. Team Bath (17-3)
  4. Leeds Rhinos (12-8)
  5. Saracens Mavericks (11-8-1)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (10-8-2)
  7. Wasps Netball (10-9-1)
  8. London Pulse (6-14)
  9. Severn Stars (4-16)
  10. Surrey Storm (3-17)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-19)

It is safe to say that the final round of the season produced some of the most wholesale changes across the entire season. With the Top 4 looking almost certain last round, everything changed this week as Loughborough Lightning wreaked havoc on Team Bath and Manchester Thunder downed Strathclyde Sirens, seeing Lightning take top spot – and the minor premiership – while Thunder stole second and Bath fell to third for the first time all season. It was certainly not the finish Bath were after following such a dominant season, and the side will really need to step up during Saturday’s semi-final against Thunder if they want to make the grand final on Sunday afternoon.

Looking further down the ladder, and Rhinos were ultimately handed the final top four position due to the positive COVID-19 case amongst the playing group, and with a question mark still over Donnell Wallam for this weekend’s clash following a family member passing away, they will want to fire up ahead of taking on the ladder-leading Lightning in the semis. Results appeared to go the way of the Saracens Mavericks this week, leaping up to finish in fifth, whilst Strathclyde Sirens achieved their best finish since they joined the competition – bar last year’s unfinished season where they placed fifth with one win from three games – with 10 wins for the season, sitting in sixth. Meanwhile, it was a different story for the inconsistent Wasps, who lost four of their last five games to finish in seventh, their lowest finish since entering the competition in 2017. Rounding out the top eight is London Pulse, whose second half to the season saw them finish with six wins, although their season was unfortunately cut short, unable to pay their final match against Rhinos in Round 20 and surely wondering what could have been.

The remainder of the ladder has not seen much change across the past few rounds, with Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Celtic Dragons labouring at the bottom. Stars and Storm both redeemed themselves with Round 20 wins to finish the season on a high, while Dragons will be getting to work now to ready for a fresh start in 2022 to put this season behind them.

ROUND 19 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

ROUND 20 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

Past ladder updates: Round 3 // Round 4 // Round 5/6 // Round 7 // Round 8 // Round 9 // Round 10/11 // Round 12 // Round 13/14 // Round 15 // Round 16 // Round 17/18 // Round 19

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 19 ladder update

THE final round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action is set to commence on the weekend, with the top four finalist prematurely decided through no fault of the sides that were still in with a chance, and a positive COVID-19 case setting up a “break glass in case of emergency” scenario prior to the round beginning. In the final edition of our Draft Central ladder update series, we compare and contrast the latest VNSL results and how they impact on the ladder heading into Round 20.

In a difficult end to the 2021 VNSL season, the top four has been prematurely decided prior to the final round playing out, following cancellation of Leeds Rhinos’ final two matches due to a positive COVID-19 case amongst the playing group. Whilst this result would typically see points split or matches rescheduled, the league’s ‘Postponements, Reschedules and Cancellations’ process in place this season means that Rhinos are awarded winning points for both of their Round 20 matches. While both of their two matches were coming up against lower sides in Celtic Dragons and London Pulse – which the Rhinos claimed wins over earlier in the season – there was ultimately no guarantee the Rhinos would earn the win over the Pulse at the very least, with the side rallying in recent weeks and knocking Saracens Mavericks out of finals contention in their Round 19 clash.

BUT WHAT DOES THIS PROCESS MEAN FOR THE REST OF THE COMPETITION?

Namely, this means that despite currently sitting in fourth and fifth on the ladder, Strathclyde Sirens and Wasps Netball now have no chance of making the finals, with just one match remaining apiece. Whilst already previously noted that the Rhinos would be playing both Dragons (11th) and Pulse (8th), the Sirens and Wasps still had a slim chance of reaching the post-season series dependant on other results across the round. Realistically, the situation does not have much of an impact on the remaining teams, although Dragons and Pulse will not get a chance to play their remaining fixture of the season with their respective Round 20 matches cancelled.

ROUND 17/18 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-1)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-2)
  3. Manchester Thunder (15-3)
  4. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  5. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (7-7-2)
  7. Saracens Mavericks (9-7-1)
  8. London Pulse (4-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-15)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-16)

ROUND 19 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-2)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-3)
  3. Manchester Thunder (16-3)
  4. Strathclyde Sirens (10-7-2)
  5. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  6. Saracens Mavericks (10-8-1)
  7. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  8. London Pulse (6-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-16)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-17)

Looking back at Round 19, and there were some intriguing results to come out of the round. Firstly, the Severn Stars and Wasps were forced to postpone their clash to a later date due to a positive COVID-19 case amongst the Wasps playing group. Fortunately, the side became aware of the case early enough to ensure their match could be rescheduled for Monday evening, June 21.

The Mavericks overcame Team Bath to prove that their Round 9 upset was not a fluke, and keep their finals hopes alive. But a huge effort from the Pulse saw the eighth-ranked side pull off a massive Monday night victory over the Mavericks to officially put their finals hopes to rest, less than 24 hours after the Mavericks thought they had secured a chance. The Sirens bolstered their percentage to leap into fourth with a huge 19-goal win over the Dragons, and Manchester Thunder are hard to stop when they are switched on, and they most certainly were against the Lightning, executing a huge 14-goal victory to close the round.

With two of the top three side dealt losses in Round 19, all three of Bath, Lightning and Thunder retain their positions heading into the final round, however the semi-final matches are still in question with all three franchises ultimately able to take out top spot dependant on their fellow top sides’ efforts. With Thunder hosting Sirens and Lightning hosting Bath in the final match of the round, no team will be sure of their semi-final opposition until the final whistle is blown.

Now let’s have a look at what is required from each top three side:

Thunder: Must beat Sirens by a hefty margin, and Lightning must only beat Bath by a small margin, for Thunder to take top spot. If Thunder loses to Sirens, they likely retain third position, unless Bath dominate their clash.

Lightning: Must beat Bath by a hefty margin to ensure they stay above Manchester to take top spot. If they lose to Bath, the side will want a small margin to ensure Thunder do not take second.

Bath: Must win to retain top spot, otherwise could fall to second, or even third depending on results. Bath have retained ladder-leading status for majority of the season, but could lose it for the first time since Rounds 4, 5 and 6, when Lightning took the mantle.

Now that Leeds has ultimately take fourth spot on the ladder – although the six winning points (three per win) have yet to be attributed to the side meaning the official ladder with Sirens in fourth (32 points with one match remaining), Wasps in fifth (31 points with one match remaining), Mavericks in sixth (31 points with one match remaining) and Rhinos in seventh (30 points with two matches remaining) still stands until Round 20 is complete – there is not much left for the remaining sides to do.

Pulse’s six wins ensure they finish a couple wins clear of Severn Stars in ninth, whilst Surrey Storm (two wins) and Celtic Dragons (one win) sees the remainder of the ladder go unchanged despite the huge movements from seventh through to the very top, in what has been a closely contested season all around.

DRAFT CENTRAL PREDICTED FINAL LADDER:

  1. Team Bath (18-2 / 54 points)
  2. Manchester Thunder (17-3 / 51 points)
  3. Loughborough Lightning (16-4 / 48 points)
  4. Leeds Rhinos (12-8 / 36 points)
  5. Wasps Netball (11-8-1 / 34 points)
  6. Saracens Mavericks (11-8-1 / 34 points)
  7. Strathclyde Sirens (10-8-2 / 32 points)
  8. London Pulse (6-14 / 18 points)
  9. Severn Stars (4-16 / 12 points)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-18 / 6 points)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-19 / 3 points)

ROUND 17/18 COVERAGE

Friday/Saturday wrap // Sunday/Monday wrap

ROUND 19 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

Past ladder updates: Round 3 // Round 4 // Round 5/6 // Round 7 // Round 8 // Round 9 // Round 10/11 // Round 12 // Round 13/14 // Round 15 // Round 16 // Round 17/18

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 9&19

VITALITY Netball Superleague returned this week with the finals race front and centre while Round 19 of the ANZ Premiership rolled around. There were plenty of impressive performances from players across both leagues as Draft Central compiles two teams of the week from the respective leagues.

ANZ Premiership

GS: Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics)
GA: Jamie Hume (Northern Stars)
WA: Peta Toeava (Northern Mystics)
C: Maddy Gordon (Central Pulse)
WD: Renee Savai’inaea (Southern Steel)
GD: Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)
GK: Taneisha Fifita (Southern Steel)

BENCH: George Fisher (Southern Steel), Sam Winders (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic), Elle Temu (Northern Stars)

There is no denying that Grace Nweke has all but solidified her role as the starting goal shooter in our Team of the Week with the Northern Mystics representative a pillar of consistency. Her ability to hold strong under the post and use her footwork to claim prime position is second to none, not to mention her accuracy and volume finishing the game with 57 goals from 61 attempts. Alongside her in the goal circle is Northern Stars goal attack Jamie Hume who well and truly stepped up to the plate in Round 9 of the ANZ Premiership. The quick footed sharp shooter made her presence felt from the opening minute and shouldered the load. She backed herself from range and boasted a confident aura throughout the clash with her clever drives and hot hand coming to the fore to finish with 18 goals at 86 per cent.

There is speed to burn through the midcourt with Peta Toeava starring in wing attack with her quick give and go and vision. The Mystics midcourter set the court alight with her drive and positioning around circle edge to fire off pinpoint passes racking up a whopping 38 goal assists. Speaking of speedsters, Maddy Gordon had her time to shine in at centre for the Pulse with her tenacity speaking volumes. A real competitor with a high endurance base, Gordon plied her trade effectively up both ends of the court to feed the ball into the shooters and also rack up the intercepts herself. She could transition down court in a heartbeat such is her speed while her quick hands were also prominent. The wing defence position falls to Renee Savai’inaea and while she did not register a wealth of stats her work off the ball was tremendous, keeping her opponent off circle edge.

Down back it is hard to go past Karin Burger with the goal defence continuing to impress. In her first year with the Tactix, Burger has well and truly found her place using her closing speed and deceptively long arms to create deflections aplenty and disrupt the attacking rhythm for opposition teams. Her read of the play was also at the forefront of her performance collecting four intercepts for her efforts. Youngster Taneisha Fifita secured the goal keeper position with her ability to compete in the air and at ground level. The Southern Steel defender got hands to ball and used her body work to out-manoeuvre her opponent and reel in wayward passes.

Elle Temu was unlucky not to get the nod down back after putting out a stellar performance. The defender was in just about everything using her aerial capacity and quick feet to win ball back time after time. Also on the bench is George Fisher with the goal shooter a rock under the post while the final spot goes to Sam Winders with the Magic captain a real driving force in both attack and defence.

VNSL

GS: Ine-Mari Venter (Saracen Mavericks)
GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Gia Abernethy (Strathclyde Sirens)
WD: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
GD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)
GK: Towera Vinkhumbo (Strathclyde Sirens)

BENCH: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning), Serena Guthrie (Team Bath), Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

Goal shooter, Ine-Mari Venter was in dominant form and was a key reason for the Mavs win using her strength to hold off her opponent. Able to read the play and position accordingly, Venter was able to go score with ease posting 31 goals. It was a strong performance by Eleanor Cardwell with the goal attack controlling the tempo in attack for Manchester Thunder and subsequently earning the starting position. Her ability to weave her magic down the court, hit the scoreboard at an accurate rate only missing three of her 26 attempts and create attacking forays was second to none.

Caroline O’Hanlon secured the wing attack position with the Manchester Thunder midcourter using her knowledge and experience to have a profound impact around circle edge. Not the quickest player out on court, one thing you can rely on is O’Hanlon’s ability to deliver well-weighted passes and nous to find space in the attacking third. Strathclyde Sirens captain and centre, Gia Abernethy was on song throughout her outing using her gut-running and slick hands to have an influence at both ends of the court. Abernethy had a hand in just about everything picking up a number of intercepts and deflections to lead the way for the Sirens. Beth Cobden takes out the wing defence position with the Lightning stalwart able to ply her trade and use her closing speed to clog up space.

London Pulse goal defence, Funmi Fadoju was in scintillating form in both games across Round 19 of the VNSL and while she got her fair share of whistle she made up for it with her ball winning capabilities. She was a real energiser bunny down in defence, throwing herself at everything that came her way and most importantly winning ball back whether it be through intercepts or deflections. Towera Vinkhumbo was at her damaging best for the Sirens getting hands to ball and staying away from the whistle. Her skill to stay in play and mount pressure was imperative in her side’s win as was her tenacity to win ball back and make life hard for opposition teams trying to enter the defensive circle.

There are a number of key players on the bench with Mary Cholhok a commanding force once again under the post for the Lightning with her height and prolific nature to post putting her in good stead. Razia Quashie also impressed with her defensive pressure and tenacity before she was struck down with injury, while the final spot goes to Serena Guthrie with the centre imposing herself in defence and attack credit to her hunt and sheer athleticism.

VNSL 2021: Round 19 – Monday wrap

TWO more matches completed Round 19 of Vitality Netball Superleague action on Monday night, with huge results seeing one side dealt a devastating blow to their finals potential and the other a dent to their confidence ahead of their finals campaign.

London Pulse (46) defeated Saracens Mavericks (33)

Player of the match: Ashleigh Dekker (London Pulse)

For the two sides coming into their second clash of the weekend off the back of wins on Sunday, a tight matchup was expected especially given the confidence of the Pulse and the Mavericks dealt a devastating blow with Razia Quashie succumbing to a season-ending potential Achilles injury the match prior. While the Mavs looked the goods still heading into the matchup, the Pulse came out with a point to prove and extended their winning form to three, ultimately putting a huge stop to the Mavericks’ finals chances now with just one match left to play. Whilst the Mavericks got off to a hot start to lead at the first break, the Pulse flew out of the blocks in the second and continued adding to their scoreline throughout to knock the Mavs down a peg. The Mavs failed to score double digit quarters after the first testament to the Pulse’s defensive effort and ability to force errors from the attack, seeing the Pulse claim the huge 13-goal victory.

It was an absolute feeding showcase from Ashleigh Dekker, earning player of the match accolades for her ability to spot the combination of Olivia Tchine and Lefebre Rademan inside the goal circle. The tactical decision for Sigi Burger to sit out following her effort on Sunday proved how impressive Tchine has been this season, taking over the goal shooter role seamlessly, adding 35 goals straight to her tally while Rademan assisted well with 11 from 13 attempts. Defensively, the Mavericks struggled missing their pillar of Quashie, with Jodie Gibson and Jo Trip piling on the pressure but unable to faze the goalers to post. Gabby Marshall was her usual workhorse self but could not have an impact on Dekker, while Ine-Mari Venter and Kadeen Corbin failed to fire on all cylinders under the heavy workrate of Lindsay Keable and Funmi Fadoju, with Zara Everitt showcasing her long arms out the front blocking Georgia Lees‘ vision on circle edge.

Loughborough Lightning (46) defeated by Manchester Thunder (60)

Player of the match: Kerry Almond (Manchester Thunder)

The second match of the day saw just as surprising a result as the first, however in a very different way as the Thunder blew the Lightning out of the water from the get-go. It was the Thunder’s ability to keep the foot on the pedal that allowed them to retain the lead throughout the entire encounter, with the 30-20 first half speaking for the huge amount of defensive pressure the Thunder piled on. With both sides’ final berths secured already, this match was all about bragging rights, and sets up a huge final round with both teams now in a position to hunt for top spot on the ladder, or at the very least change up positions within the top four ahead of finals in a couple weeks.

Defensively, the Thunder starred limiting Mary Cholhok‘s impact in the goal circle and forcing Ella Clark and Suzie Liverseidge to step up. Kerry Almond was instrumental and was a deserved recipient of the player of the match award credit to her ability to cause a nuisance for the towering Cholhok, who still managed 32 goals but at a lower accuracy than usual, as Clark and Liverseidge combined for 14 from 18 attempts. Almond’s five turnovers from three intercepts and five deflections were critical, while Emma Dovey played her role well out the front in tandem with both Rebekah Airey and Elia McCormick. At the other end, the attack was huge proved by the rotation of both Berri Neal and Emilia Roscoe at times, with Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell able to share the shooting load with 29 and 23 goals respectively. Just Nat Panagarry and Sam May picked up an intercept for the Lightning, with Beth Cobden‘s usual ball-winning ability and defensive presence nullified by the workrate of Caroline O’Hanlon.

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 19 – Sunday wrap

THE penultimate round of Vitality Netball Superleague action is almost done and dusted, with three huge Sunday afternoon clashes playing out rather than the scheduled four due to the Surrey Storm and Wasps Netball clash being postponed following a positive COVID-19 case amongst the Wasps playing group. That match is set to be rescheduled in due time.

Strathclyde Sirens (53) defeated Celtic Dragons (34)

Player of the match: Gia Abernethy (Strathclyde Sirens)

The Strathclyde Sirens got a crucial Round 19 win on the board to take them another step closer to finals content, downing Celtic Dragons by 19-goals in a comprehensive effort. A consistent barrage was required by the Sirens to come away with the points in this clash, and consistent is what they got, adding to their tally each quarter throughout to leave the Dragons behind. Despite improved defensive efforts from the Dragons, the side struggled to hit the scoreboard in the first half, putting up just four goals in the first and trailing 24-11 at the main break. A huge 17-11 third term from the Sirens all but secured victory, as the side rolled out the subs to give developing talent a chance to showcase their wares.

Abigail Tyrell and Annika Lee-Jones had an excellent start, piling on the defensive pressure from the get-go to deny easy chances at goal for Sirens goal shooter Emma Barrie with the tall timber lacking her usual impact to the post finishing with just nine goals. The two Dragons defenders combined for six turnovers and 10 deflections with their high work rate paying off throughout the contest, although the agile movement of Niamh McCall (29 goals from 37 attempts) and Bethan Goodwin (15 from 16) appeared to do the trick as the Sirens took control. Player of the match and Sirens captain Gia Abernethy was hard to stop through the centre, throwing herself at everything to pile on four intercepts and allow Beth Dix to fire on all cylinders in wing attack. The combination of Towera Vinkhumbo and Emily Nicholl continues to shine, as the duo combined for seven intercepts, three deflections and 10 turnovers, while Taylor Cullen was a workhorse shutting down Laura Rudland. Despite their struggles getting ball into the circle, Amy Clinton (20 from 24) and Rebekah Robinson (12 from 13) were on song when they were within range. Clare Jones and Shona O’Dwyer continue to showcase their defensive nous in the midcourt, combining for two of the Dragons’ three intercepts, with the last snatched by Robinson out in goal attack.

Team Bath (35) defeated by Saracens Mavericks (46)

Player of the match: Ine-Mari Venter (Saracens Mavericks)

Just when Team Bath have been looking unbeatable, the Mavericks have come along once more to knock the ladder-leaders down a peg with a critical win. Whilst many may have expected their first clash victory to be a fluke, the Mavericks well and truly proved what they are capable of with a huge 11-goal victory over Bath to put them in a good position to steal that last remaining finals position. It took a hot start from the Mavs to secure the win, rendering Bath to just 13 goals in the first half to Mavericks’ 23, and firing on all cylinders from thereon out to ensure they did not allow the fired up Bath side to steal momentum. Whilst Bath executed a much more typical second half, the Mavs did not lose a quarter throughout to showcase just how good they can be.

It was a masterclass across the court for the Mavericks, who came out with a point to prove against the ladder-leaders. Ine-Mari Venter may not have had the court time in recent starts but was unstoppable combining with Kadeen Corbin, with the South African plying her trade effectively to finish with 31 goals and prove she was up to the physicality that Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth were bringing. Corbin shot 15 straight in a classy effort, utilising her footwork and connection with sister Sasha and Beth Ecuyer-Dale to really shake off the defensive pressure from Guscoth, Imogen Allison and Serena Guthrie. Bath speedster Rachel Shaw was well nullified by the ever-smothering Gabby Marshall, whose influence allowed Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie to fire on all cylinders, with Jo Trip‘s impact also noted. Defensively, Quashie, Gibson and Marshall accounted for six of the side’s eight intercepts with Quashie also creating eight deflections, rendering the usually clean and composed combination of Kim Borger (15 goals from 18 attempts) and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (one goal) to messiness, as Betsy Creak entered the action to pile on 19 goals to the side’s final tally. Guscoth and Guthrie were the only players to register intercepts for Bath, with the usually clinical defensive unit outplayed on this occasion.

London Pulse (42) defeated Severn Stars (40)

Player of the match: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)

The London Pulse secured another win to jump up the leaderboard a fraction more, gaining more separation from the Stars in the process with a critical two-goal victory. Whilst not able to make finals, both sides came out hunting for an elusive win and it was the Pulse that managed to execute their fifth for the season, and second straight showcasing their improved form as the season has continued. Whilst the Stars competed well throughout, winning the third term to go into the final quarter on 30 goals apiece, Pulse marginally pipped them at the post going the extra mile under pressure to claim the 42-40 final result.

Pulse’s improved backline continues to impress week on week, with young gun Funmi Fadoju stepping up once more to control proceedings. While she received plenty of whistle – with Fadoju and goal keeper Lindsay Keable combining for 40 – she was a livewire in every sense of the word, able to transition smoothly between attacking the ball and hands outside the circle to having a huge impact inside too, creating five turnovers for her side off the back of 10 deflections and an intercept. That being said, the consistent effort from Georgia Rowe (33 goals from 34 attempts) and Paige Reed (seven goals straight) paid off with the duo combining well and missing just one goal between them. The back trio of Iman ThomasLucy Herdman and Malysha Kelly worked hard to combat easy feeds into Pulse’s Sigi Burger, who finished with 29 goals to go with fellow South African Lefebre Rademan‘s 13, with Thomas racking up four intercepts to lead all comers. The battle between Kyra Jones and Ashleigh Dekker was immense, while Nia Jones put in the hard yards to limit Adean Thomas space to feed into the circle.

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 19 preview – Penultimate round sees do-or-die clashes

A HUGE penultimate round of Vitality Netball Superleague action is upon us, with one side in Wasps potentially taking the court for the final time this season as Leeds Rhinos earn the week off and the remaining nine sides go head-to-head, with London Pulse and Saracens Mavericks both taking the court twice.

SUNDAY, JUNE 13

Surrey Storm v. Wasps Netball 

Expect a huge clash between the Storm and the Wasps, with this matchup the Wasps’ final encounter for the home and away season and their last chance of securing enough points to make the finals series. While they are still more than capable of making finals they will really want to put the foot down against the Storm who have been showing some real fighting spirit over the last few rounds and will want to do anything in their power to stop the Wasps from achieving that last finals position.

The real test in this one will be whether Surrey Storm’s developing attack-line can defeat the tough buffer of the Wasps defensive combination in Josie Huckle and Fran Williams. While Karyn Bailey is capable of holding down the goal circle on her own she will need consistent assistance from Emma Magee in goal attack and hard drives from Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin to ensure she puts up a sufficient scoreline. Young defender Alima Priest has really come to the fore in the last couple of weeks alongside Leah Middleton although the duo will have their work cut out for them taking on experienced combination Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris, especially given the exciting form of Amy Flanagan and Iona Christian and the viable impact option of Gezelle Allison and injection of Lily-May Catling over the past few rounds.

Strathclyde Sirens v. Celtic Dragons 

Like the Wasps, the Sirens really need a win this weekend and they should achieve that with relative ease over Celtic Dragons. While the Dragons have actually shown some really great intent and hunt for the ball over the past six or so round in particular, the Sirens have a real pep in their step this season after a few seasons towards the bottom end the ladder and will really want to prove that their season has been enough to allow them a chance at finals, especially given their consistency throughout. 

The Sirens have undoubtedly been one one of the most improved teams this season and that is down to their exciting circle combinations. The attack has benefited from a rotating circle with Emma Barrie, Bethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall combining, which will be the real test for the Dragons with Annika Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrell sure to have their work cut out for them. At the other end Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson are capable of turning on the excitement factor for the Dragons, however they will have a really tough time coming up against Towera Vinkhumbo in goalkeeper, especially considering the extra ball-winning ability of Emily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen out the front, and the drive down court from captain Gia Abernethy.

Team Bath Netball v. Saracens Mavericks 

This could be a do-or-die clash as the Mavericks take on Team Bath, although they do actually come in holding the mantle over Bath as the only side to have defeated the ladder-leading team all season. That being said. Bath certainly did not give the Mavericks the credit they deserved last time they met and are sure to come out firing this time around. The Mavericks have looked switched on over the past few rounds though so do not underestimate the side which is still potentially in with a chance of making finals.

It is safe to say that Serena Guthrie will be the barometer in this matchup with Sasha Corbin and Gabby Marshall having their work cut out for them, although the midcourt duo will be bolstered by a huge defensive line with Jodie Gibson, Razia Quashie and Jo Trip all more than capable of holding their own defensively. At the other end it is safe to say the defensive combination of Imogen Allison, Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown is hard to stop, with each individual a workhorse driving the ball down and combining seamlessly week on week. While the defensive matchup is fairly even, the difference here will likely come down to the goal circle units of both sides with Bath’s tried-and-true combination of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Borger sure to set the court alight.

London Pulse v. Severn Stars

Expect an intriguing clash between London Pulse and Severn Stars given the shaky season that both teams have had this year. While Stars have had moments of brilliance they have been unable to convert that into consistent four quarter efforts, however it is also safe to say that Pulse have also really missed the mark this year and have struggled to keep up with the teams above them on the ladder. While the Stars are sure to bring the heat, the Pulse are on a roll and will want to ensure that continues as they wrap up their season and try to get a couple more wins on the board.

Both the Stars and Pulse have been showcasing some great upcoming talent with the likes of Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe consistently standing up for the Stars. The experience of Kyra Jones and Liana Leota has consistently stood up while Nia Jones has showcased her plentiful tricks of the trade heading up a young looking back line. In the absence of Halimat Adio, Pulse has had a real chance to showcase the explosiveness of their own defensive line, with Zara Everitt and Funmi Fadoju standing up alongside Lindsay Keable, and even young gun Peace Akinyemi finding her way onto the court last round. The real difference in this match will be the Pulse’s front-end firepower, with Sigi Burger a huge target in the goal circle while Lefebre Rademan and Kira Rothwell work hard out the front to provide an edge. 

Tip: Wasps by 8, Sirens by 15, Bath by 6, Pulse by 3

MONDAY, JUNE 14

London Pulse v. Saracens Mavericks

 Kicking off Monday’s matches is another big match between Pulse and Mavericks as the two sides shape up for their second matches of the round. The Mavericks will be either brimming with confidence or on shaky legs following a huge matchup with Bath, while the Pulse will want to do everything in their power to limit the Mavs of an extra win which could bump them into finals contention. Realistically, the Mavericks need this win here regardless of whether they get the win over Bath to even have a small sniff of making the postseason series.

The Mavericks will want to ensure they use the strength and evasive speed of Britney Clark in the circle in this match with the goal shooter an excellent target and creating a really versatile goal circle alongside Kadeen Corbin and Ine-Mari Venter. While Burger has been a consistent threat for the Pulse, the elevated form of Olivia Tchine has paid off in spades with the goal shooter proving she is more than capable of holding her own in the circle and offering a great impact option. Both sides match up defensively very well with livewires at either end, who are able to spark action with just one aerial leap. It is safe to say Fadoju and Quashie are sure to provide some exciting elements to the big matchup, with plenty of creative flair set to be on show, while Adean Thomas is another excellent feeder who will want to utilise her class and delivery.

Loughborough Lightning v. Manchester Thunder

The final match of the round is a battle between two and three – ultimately one of the most tantalising matches of the entire round. Lightning sit in second with just two losses on the board for the season while Manchester has three losses and sit on a just as comfortable winning streak as the Lightning do. Neither side has a weak spot and both have plenty to prove as they look to showcase just how powerful they are, especially given they could be a finals clash waiting to happen. 

There are a number of hugely important matchups in this match with the midpoint of both sides really coming to the forefront when thinking of where the match will be won and lost. The Thunder boast the likes of Laura Malcolm, Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon through the centre, while there is no doubt that they are matched up on very well by Nat Panagarry, Beth Cobden and the likes of Hannah Joseph and Hannah Williams. Defensively, Lightning’s combination of Annabel Roddy, Jas Odeogberin and Sam May will look to make life hard for Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell while the other end expect a huge one-on-one between Mary Cholhok and Kerry Almond as Emma Dovey looks to shut down the easy delivery from Ella Clark. Expect neither side to give an inch throughout a huge contest, with the real proof in the pudding likely coming down to that midcourt and the adaptability of each side.

Tip: Mavericks by 9, Lightning by 2

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 17/18 ladder update

FANS always knew that this season of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action was set to be a cracker, but it is safe to say that the competitiveness of the season, and in turn the ladder, has made the last few rounds a real race to the finish. In this new series, each week Draft Central will compare the most recent ladders given how quickly things can change, and delve into how each round of fixturing can change up positions based on the amount of matches each side has played.

ROUND 16 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (16-1)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (14-2)
  3. Manchester Thunder (13-3)
  4. Wasps Netball (10-7-1)
  5. Leeds Rhinos (9-7)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (8-6-2)
  7. Saracens Mavericks (8-6-1)
  8. London Pulse (3-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-13)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-14)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-14)

ROUND 17/18 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-1)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-2)
  3. Manchester Thunder (15-3)
  4. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  5. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (7-7-2)
  7. Saracens Mavericks (9-7-1)
  8. London Pulse (4-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-15)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-16)

Looking at this week’s ladder, things do not seem too different with only the win counts changing and no excessive movement as we have seen creeping in over the past few rounds. But one thing this round’s ladder update does boast, is another look in at the race for the final spot in the top four, after Manchester Thunder officially sewed up the third spot with two hefty wins on the weekend.

Unsurprisingly, it is still Team Bath sitting atop the ladder, as they have for majority of the season. With two matches remaining – against Saracens Mavericks and Loughborough Lightning, respectively, it should be an interesting few weeks with the Mavs coming into their Round 19 clash as the only team to claim a win over the blue and gold side thus far. The Lightning are realistically one of the only other sides capable of doing so and will look to test Bath thoroughly in a blockbuster final match to finish off the home and away season, which could ultimately be a grand final preview.

Lightning are in a very similar position to Bath, with a Round 19 matchup waiting against Manchester Thunder, who will be looking to gain ground and slip into second, which could then put more pressure on the Lightning side heading into the final round. For Manchester, a final round matchup with Strathclyde Sirens could prove interesting, with the Scotland-based side requiring a win here but potentially out of the running for a top four position in the hours following their encounter.

The race for the top four continues, with Wasps’ loss to Mavericks on the weekend proving crucial for both sides – meaning Wasps need a win this week given it is their final match of the home and away season, and Mavericks need to ensure they claim points in all three of their remaining games to challenge the Rhinos for the final spot. While the Wasps’ final match should be a fairly comprehensive victory taking on Surrey Storm, their opposition put out two four-quarter performances over the weekend and will certainly look to test the Wasps.

Rhinos face the bye this week, so will know following Round 19 whether they are capable of swinging into the final position on the ladder, with two – fairly simple – matchups facing them in the final round and plenty to be excited for. Given the Rhinos have the most favourable draw remaining, they are the only side that could realistically nab the fourth spot in finals from the Wasps, with both Sirens and Mavericks requiring a clean sweep of wins to finish the season, and only really guaranteed one from two (Sirens) and two from three (Mavericks) respectively.

RACE TO TOP FOUR CONTENTION:

WASPS NETBALL: 4th | Played 19

W 10 | L 9 | D 1

Round 19: Surrey Storm
Round 20: BYE

STRATHCLYDE SIRENS: 6th | Played 18

W 9 | L 7 | D 2

Round 19: Celtic Dragons
Round 20: Manchester Thunder

LEEDS RHINOS: 5th | Played 18

W 10 | L 8 | D 0

Round 19: BYE
Round 20: London Pulse, Celtic Dragons

SARACENS MAVERICKS: 7th | Played 17

W 9 | L 7 | D 1

Round 19: Team Bath, London Pulse
Round 20: Surrey Storm

The bottom end of the ladder has not changed too much for the majority of the season, with London Pulse claiming a fourth win over the weekend to retain eighth position on the ladder, while Severn Stars (three wins), Surrey Storm (two) and Celtic Dragons (one) all looking unlikely to claim an upset to finish the season, although they will look to test one another in the coming rounds with Pulse and Stars facing off this weekend, before Dragons and Stars go head-to-head in the final round.

ROUND 16 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

ROUND 17/18 COVERAGE

Friday/Saturday wrap // Sunday/Monday wrap

Past ladder updates: Round 3 // Round 4 // Round 5/6 // Round 7 // Round 8 // Round 9 // Round 10/11 // Round 12 // Round 13/14 // Round 15 // Round 16

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 7&17/18

IN the next edition of our new series, Draft Central has composed two Teams of the Week with one side each hailing from the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) and the other from the ANZ Premiership.

ANZ Premiership:

GS: Ellie Bird (Mainland Tactix)
GA: Te Amo Amaru-Tibble (Central Pulse)
WA: Shannon Saunders (Southern Steel)
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Northern Stars)
WD: Kate Heffernan (Southern Steel)
GD: Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick (Northern Mystics)

BENCH: Caitlin Bassett (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic), Samon Nathan (Mainland Tactix), Taneisha Fifita (Southern Steel)

Ellie Bird was a focal point for the Mainland Tactix with the goal shooter commanding the ball with her strong holds, clever movement and scoring prowess. Bird was a constant threat and did not give up throughout the match competing hard in the air and going up strongly for every rebound to give the Tactix an edge, earning the starting goal shooter position. Pulse goal attack, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble had another strong performance with her work both inside the goal circle and in transition imperative to her side’s success. Amaru-Tibble showcased her class with ball in hand and overall spatial awareness to drive into the circle and shoulder the scoring load for the Pulse finishing with 22 goals at 88 per cent.

It was a vintage performance from Shannon Saunders as the Southern Steel captain paved the way in attack. Her speed and strength to continuously secure circle edge was second to none as her hot hand also enabled her to deliver pinpoint passes into her goalers. It was an all-round strong performance from the wing attack, collecting 24 goal assists in the win. The centre bib goes to Mila Reuelu-Buchanan with the Stars midcourter using her speed and fancy footwork to full effect. Put through her paces early, her endurance, composure and skill came to the fore over an extended period to drive the Stars both in attack and defence and provide that link between the two ends. Although it was not a stats-stuffing performance, Kate Heffernan showcased her ability to do the nitty gritty stuff and do it well. She really ground down her opponent and worked in overdrive to clog up the space and make life hard.

It was her best game yet since joining Mainland Tactix with goal defence Karin Burger sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition the minute she stepped out on court. Her class and ball winning capabilities came to the fore from the opening minute of play as she injected herself into the action. Burger was a brick wall in defence with her preliminary movement to cover her opponents drive and strong hands over pressure earning her a starting spot in this rounds team of the week. Joining her down back is Sulu Fitzpatrick. Funnily enough neither player were apart of winning sides but were arguably the best performer out on court. The goal keeper was a real menace down back with her constant tips and hands to ball to disrupt the flow. The Mystics captain was strong in the air and at ground level with her nimble footwork and body positioning a couple of key attributes.

There are a couple of exciting prospects on the bench with Samon Nathan playing one of her best games so far this season with the wing attack driving hard and using her lightning quick hands to find the shooters under the post while Taneisha Fifita was a real livewire down back for the Steel with her tenacity. The final bench position goes to Australian and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic goal shooter, Caitlin Bassett who impressed with her holds and volume to finish with 47 goals at 86 per cent.

VNSL:

GS: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning)
GA: Lefebre Rademan (London Pulse)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Serena Guthrie (Team Bath)
WD: Emily Hollingworth (Leeds Rhinos)
GD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)
GK: Eboni Usoro-Brown (Team Bath)

BENCH: Kim Borger (Team Bath) Beth Dix (Strathclyde Sirens), Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)

The shooting combination has a real international flavour this round with Ugandan shooting star Mary Cholhok earning the starting goal shooter position and South African Lefebre Rademan securing the goal attack bib. Cholhok was in damaging form once again with the goaler using her flair and height to reel in the high ball and pile on the goals for the Lightning. She had the ball on a string in her second outing nailing an impressive 50 goals and only missing four attempts highlighting her high level of accuracy. Meanwhile Rademan showcased her playmaking capacity and scoring ability for the London Pulse. The zippy goal attack was a real energiser bunny, injecting herself into just about everything and darting inside the circle to apply some scoreboard pressure.

Moving into the midcourt and it is a couple of veterans that have retained their spot in this round’s Draft Central Team of the Week. Caroline O’Hanlon was influential for the Thunder with her fancy footwork around circle edge, impeccable timing and deft passes into the circle causing all sorts of trouble for the opposition. The highly athletic and gravity-defying Serena Guthrie gets the nod at centre after another strong performance for Team Bath. The centre plied her trade in defence and attack to win ball back for her side and then sprint down the other end of the court thanks to her silky transitional play. Emily Hollingworth had a game to remember for Leeds Rhinos with the wing defence earning her first nod in our Team of the Week. Her strong hands over pressure, closing speed and ball tracking were on song throughout the match.

It has been a breakout season for London Pulse defender Funmi Fadoju and this round was no different as she got hands to ball time and time again. The defender was a real pest, frequently creating tips and turnovers while her cleanliness was also obvious. Fadoju walked away with an impressive six intercepts and five deflections. Joining her down back is the ever-reliable Eboni Usoro-Brown with the goal keeper able to cleanly contest and cause disruption with her read of the play. Usoro-Brown worked hard to cover her opponent and apply some strong hands over pressure to get in the head of the shooters and force turnovers aplenty.

There is no shortage of talent on the bench with England Roses star, Layla Guscoth earning a spot thanks to her attack on the ball and ability to pickpocket passes for Team Bath. Beth Dix was a real livewire through the midcourt for the Sirens hitting circle edge with conviction, while the final bench position falls to Kim Borger with the Team Bath goal shooter impressing with her timing and accuracy to post.

VNSL 2021: Round 17/18 – Friday/Saturday wrap

IT was a blockbuster start to the double round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action with matches played in front of a crowd for the first time this season. The Friday and Saturday games gave fans plenty to cheer about as Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning continued their winning ways.

Celtic Dragons (30) defeated by London Pulse (51)

Player of the match: Lefebre Rademan (London Pulse)

It was a relatively low scoring match but in the end it was London Pulse that got the job done against the lowly Celtic Dragons. Pulse led from start to finish and steadily added to their margin throughout the game. London were not afraid to ring in the changes to keep the Dragons on their toes and guessing what was going to be thrown their way next.

South African goal attack, Lefebre Rademan plied her trade effectively for the Pulse earning Player of the Match honours for her efforts out on court. A crafty player with ball in hand, Rademan created a wealth of attacking forays while also impressing under the post. She adapted on the fly playing with both Sigi Burger and Olivia Tchine while the ever-changing midcourt combination of Kira Rothwell and Adean Thomas was exciting to watch. Funmi Fadoju was her consistent self, applying strong hands over pressure and hunting for any loose ball such is her tenacious nature. Peace Akinyemi made her debut for the Pulse with the defender showcasing her array of talents to congest the attacking third. For the Dragons, Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson worked tirelessly in the goal circle while Annika Lee-Jones used her long limbs to apply pressure on the Pulse goalers.

Severn Stars (32) defeated by Team Bath (45)

Player of the match: Kim Borger (Team Bath)

Team Bath just go from strength to strength and this game was no different. Although the Stars pushed them throughout the contest, Bath stuck to their structures to keep finding ways to score and keep the Stars on the back foot. The Stars did work gallantly both in defence and attack to cause headaches for Bath who did not have everything their own way, but in the end the top team could not be beaten.

Serena Guthrie pulled out the party tricks once again with the Team Bath centre using every ounce of her athleticism and class to keep the ball in play and dish it off to none other than Kim Borger under the post. Borger was a rock under the post, holding her own against Lucy Herdman and Iman Thomas to out-position her opponent time and time again. Her connection with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis was another crucial element in the sides win as the duo used their quick hands and fancy footwork  to exploit their opponents in the circle. Liana Leota had her work cut out for her against Imogen Allison with the wing defence renowned for her physicality and ability to contest each and every pass. Tash Pavelin got the nod in goal defence to start the game and made the most of her chances with her defensive pressure well and truly coming to the fore.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Celtic Dragons (35)

Player of the match: Suzie Liverseidge (Loughborough Lightning)

Unfortunately it did not get any better for the Dragons as they came up against the second placed Loughborough Lightning who made light work of them. The Lightning are a well-oiled unit and this performance was no different as they capitalised on their opportunities and suffocated the Dragons in attack. By half time the Lightning had established a commanding 19-goal lead and did not look like relenting, such was their pressure across the court and desperation to collect another win as they ran out 24-goal victors.

Making her debut Jess Haynes made an immediate name for herself with the defender impressing with her ability to read the play and go out hunting for the Lightning. It was a strong performance from Suzie Liverseidge as the goal attack nailed 16 goals at 94 per cent playing a strong role alongside Ugandan goal shooter Mary Cholhok as the two rotated the circle with great ease. Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrrell had a tough time competing in the goal circle while Clare Jones worked hard to shut down the likes of Nat Panagarry through the midcourt. Beth Cobden continued on her merry way out in wing defence with her ball-tracking abilities and hunt to stop the ball in its track and propel it back down the court.

Manchester Thunder (55) defeated Severn Stars (43)

Player of the match: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)

Manchester Thunder racked up another win as the Severn Stars fell to their second loss for the round. The Thunder snuck out to a lead early and controlled the flow of play with their key cogs in each third dictating the tempo. Severn Stars struggled to combat Manchester despite their copious changes with the class of the Thunder coming through. The win was a monumental one to say the least as the Thunder secured a spot in the semi-finals with the reigning champs able to contest for another title next month.

Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe were back at it in this clash as the two worked in overdrive in the goal circle to create space and inch closer to the post. Rowe was a commanding pillar under the ring but the tried and tested Thunder combination of Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond were up to the challenge as the defensive duo implemented some strong hands over pressure. Joyce Mvula was at her damaging best in attack for the Thunder with her clever body positioning and accuracy to post while partner in crime Eleanor Cardwell chimed in both on the scoreboard and out the front to dish off pinpoint passes to the goal shooter. The Stars were forced to defend for long periods of time with Adi Bolakoro using her fancy footwork to confuse the space while wing defence Nia Jones plied her trade out the front to limit the influence of Caroline O’Hanlon. But it was to no real avail as the wing attack seemed to have the ball on a string for large patches of the game.

Strathclyde Sirens (37) defeated by Team Bath (48)

Player of the match: Rachel Shaw (Team Bath)

Team Bath made it two from two downing Strathclyde Sirens in convincing fashion. It was all one–way traffic once Bath got going using their silky connections down court to bypass the Sirens and pile on the scoreboard pressure. Holding onto top spot Bath proved why they are competition favourites to ride the wave and deliver under pressure to shut down the Sirens attacking forays and cause disruption in attack. This win marks Team Bath’s ninth victory on the trot showcasing their overall dominance on the competition as their superstars continue to find a way to drag their side to wins.

There was no shortage of star performances from Team Bath as Layla Guscoth showcased her defensive nous to pickpocket passes and use her closing speed to wreak havoc while fellow defender Eboni Usoro-Brown also impressed with her body work against Emma Barrie. The battle between Guthrie and Gia Abernethy in the midcourt was tantalising with neither player willing to take a backwards step as Taylor Cullen fought hard to reduce the impact of Rachel Shaw around circle edge. Shaw had a game to remember with the wing attack finding the top of the circle with edge and releasing pinpoint passes into the circle with great ease, finding Borger and Drakeford-Lewis continuously.

Photo credit: Ben Lumley