Tag: ella clark

What if….. The VNSL introduced the Super Shot?

THE introduction of the two-goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) has been the biggest shock to the netball community in recent history. Coaches, players and the biggest names in netball across the world have come forward with their thoughts on the introduction of the controversial rule change. But what would happen if the UK followed in the footsteps of the SSN and introduced a reward for long-range shooting?

No team would benefit more from this rule change than Wasps Netball. Renowned as the “long bomb queen” Rachel Dunn has a habit of slotting them from anywhere in the circle, and even from outside when it comes to Fast 5. She was the MVP at the British Fast 5 All Stars in 2018 and just missed out on that title in 2019 to the formidable Jo Harten. Backed up by Katie Harris and Alexia Baker, Wasps would be unstoppable if they managed to keep the score close during the first ten minutes of each quarter. With the experienced Dunn at the post, and their exciting defensive line of Fran Williams and Hannah Knights creating plenty of turnover ball, they would be back on top as the team to beat.

London Pulse’s Chiara Semple is another master of the long bomb. With good accuracy from range and the typical New Zealand confidence to post, Semple would most likely benefit from the Super Shot rule, as she typically shoots from distance anyway. With Sigi Burger standing at 6′ 5″ under the post for the rebound, Pulse could fire these off all day long. Especially given their exciting form at the start of the 2020 season, this would add another advantage to the already improving side. Another team with confidence in their attack end is Team Bath. You would expect youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to rise to the challenge of a two-goal shot if it were introduced, and her connection with Kim Commane would provide a strong starting point.

Two England Roses who do not shy away from a long ranger are Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher for Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks respectively. These two have such great composure on their shot and have both been going from strength to strength over the past few seasons. Whilst Fisher usually takes the majority of her shots from under the post, she is accurate from anywhere, memorably sinking one from near the transverse line in Fast 5. For Thunder, Cardwell has so much strength on the hold and knows how to create space for herself to find good mid-range shooting position. Given her skill in the circle, it would not be hard for her to transition into an exciting long-range shooter. Both of these teams benefit from strong and experienced shooting partnerships, Fisher with Kadeen Corbin, and Cardwell with Kathryn Turner, giving them the edge over teams with only young blood in the attacking end. Saracens Mavericks also have the advantage of defensive mastermind Razia Quashie, as well as tall tower Jo Trip, to scoop up any stray shots and build pressure at the back.

Both Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars have potential secret weapons when it comes to shooting from further away from the post. Jamaican import Rebekah Robinson has fantastic movement in the circle for Dragons and is a playmaker with the ability to shoot long when needed. England Fast Nets player Lucy Herdman delighted fans with her distance shooting at Fast 5 in 2019, leading Dragons to their first-ever semi-final in the competition. She now plies her trade for Severn Stars and while we did not see much of her on court during the short 2020 season, Herdman would be a valuable asset for Stars to have up their sleeve.

The remaining teams would probably struggle to keep up based on their current shooting strengths. Loughborough Lightning’s Ella Clark does have the experience shooting from range due to her basketball background, however her accuracy can sometimes falter when she is under heavy defensive pressure. Another team that would need to improve their accuracy to post are Strathclyde Sirens. Lynsey Gallagher can be a real threat, and as a shorter goal attack, she does tend to take shots from further out. However Sirens are usually less accurate than other teams on their goal conversion, and in a situation where shots are worth more than one point, this could really hurt their chances. For Surrey Storm, their issues lie in other areas of the court. Karen Bailey typically shoots from under the post, and while Sophie Hankin is a possible threat from further out, Storm would need to stay in touch with other teams to secure wins. After a shaky start to 2020 they will be rebuilding, and hopefully will have secured some of their structures by the time netball resumes.

Netball fans in the UK, like many in Australia, are generally not keen for the introduction of the Super Shot in the VNSL. Sara Bayman has been openly critical of the decision on the Netball Nation podcast, stating that the rule change moves even further away from the international game. She accused the new rule of “sabotaging your own national team” and believes it is likely to bring more bad news for the Diamonds. However, Tamsin Greenway has claimed this is a chance for netball to evolve and suggests we will see a move away from the tall holding shooter slotting them in from under the ring. Clubs in the UK may be glad this is being trialled down under and not in the VNSL during such a time of uncertainty for netball in the UK. Due to the backlash from netball fans in the UK, it seems unlikely that such a bold move would be considered, especially when the influence of broadcasters in England is much lower than in Australia.

Compare the Pair: Jo Harten and Ella Clark

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from across the netball world, with the next showcasing England netball goalers, Jo Harten and Ella Clark.

With height and versatility to match, Harten and Clark may play a similar position and role but are completely different in the way they take on the court. Both goalers have had significant time with Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Netball Superleague, albeit at different stages of their respective careers. As impressive shooters with high accuracy and spectacular long-range capabilities, they are both a real threat in and around the circle. Despite their height both goalers can match it with anyone down the court with their respective speed and ability to apply pressure. 

Harten has been a key cog for the England Roses for a number of years now credit to her dominance in the goal circle. Able to play both a volume and feeder role, Harten’s consistency and ability to play under pressure is what enables her to continue her dominance for so many years. Harten has played much of her international career at home in the goal circle but can switch it up when required to apply further pressure up the court, creating a formidable figure to come up against at the post. Her accuracy from a distance and impressive split allows her to be a force to be reckoned with from anywhere in the circle while her continued consistency and ability to change up her game could see her continue this form and dominance for a few more years on the international stage. She is a real barometer for any side able to turn a game on its head with her composure and netball smarts to organise the attacking end and have a profound impact. 

A dual athlete for both netball and basketball, Clark is no stranger to being in the spotlight and has really formed herself as an exciting goaler to watch on court. With a strong drive down court and long-bomb ability similar to Harten’s, Clark is another who can work her way into a game with ease thanks to her versatility down the court and long arms to apply pressure. At 190cm Clark is an imposing figure and difficult to defend, especially when combined with her impressive speed off the mark and willingness to contest for the ball. While Clark has only the five international caps to her name, she has a drive to improve with her classy ball movement and clean hands, creating a name for herself as a difficult goaler to take on when she is on her game.

Jo Harten
107 caps, 2007-present

Ella Clark
5 caps, 2016-present

Who would you pick in goals?
Jo Harten
Ella Clark
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Netball fantasy teams: Australia A v. England A

THERE is no denying that both Australia and England have a wealth of talented players coming up through the ranks therefore Draft Central has created two teams filled with players named in each country’s respective development, extended or futures squads and have played less than 15 international caps.

Australia A:

GK: Tara Hinchliffe
GD: Kim Jenner
WD: Amy Parmenter
C: Jess Anstiss
WA: Jemma Mi Mi
GA: Kiera Austin
GS: Cara Koenen

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Tayla Fraser, Matilda Garrett

No player in this Australian team has made their international debut yet, but have been named in the development squad credit to their potential. When it comes to weaponry inside the goal circle it is fair to say Australia has a couple of damaging options. Coached by Noeline Taurua for the past three years, Sunshine Coast Lightning goaler Cara Koenen is a force to be reckoned with thanks to her ability to glide across the court, smooth transitions, versatility and ability to shoot from anywhere. Koenen has quickly become an integral member in the Lightning squad and given she is only 24 still has plenty to offer for future years. Fellow goaler Kiera Austin is another handy inclusion with the GIANTS shooter able to switch between both goal attack and wing attack seamlessly. Although she does not put up a wealth of shots her ball placement and precise movement makes her a constant threat in the goal circle. Defensively Australia has a couple of viable options with Firebirds duo Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner both leading the way. The talented defensive unit have shown that they have class to boot with their hands over pressure, deceptive speed and ability to cause timely turnovers. Throw in their versatility able to seamlessly transition between goal keeper and goal defence with ease and both Hinchliffe and Jenner could build a formidable duo for years to come thanks to their tenacity and team work. Wing defence Amy Parmenter had a flash in the pan season in 2019 well and truly bursting onto the scene with her defensive prowess. Her connection with Jenner and Hinchliffe could hypothetically be the connection of the future down back with her gut running and speed a couple of key components of her game. Parmenter quickly became renowned for her pressure inside the defensive third, shadowing her opponents every move and clogging up space to pick off intercepts. Through the midcourt, defensive minded centre Jess Anstiss is another exciting prospect constantly hunting the ball and working hard to propel it back down into the attacking third. Meanwhile speedy wing attack, Jemma Mi Mi will bring plenty of excitement to the Australia A frontline with her dynamic movement, quick ball movement, fancy footwork and deadeye precision. Mi Mi is the third Firebirds player in the line-up showcasing just how much young up and coming talent they have in the ranks, with Mi Mi able to use her dash to create space in the attacking third and feed into the shooters easily. While there is plenty of class on the court, the bench is littered with a host of talent in the likes of Swifts duo Sophie Garbin and Tayla Fraser. Both showcased their dominance last season with Garbin doing the hard yards in the circle and Fraser highlighting her class with ball in hand. Matilda Garrett rounds out the Australia A team, with the highly touted defender able to use her height and smarts to cause havoc.

 

England A:

GK: Summer Artman
GD: Kate Shimmin
WD: Vicki Oyesola
C: Imogen Allison
WA: Gabby Marshall
GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
GS: George Fisher

BENCH: Ella Clark, Yasmin Parsons, Halimat Adio

This team is based off England’s extended squad and players named in the Roses Futures programs. The players named have taken the court less than 15 times internationally and have plenty of potential to develop into key cogs for the Roses in years to come.Starting in the goal circle it is hard to go past the efforts of George Fisher. The talented Saracens Mavericks goal shooter has racked up 12 international caps and will be looking to become a regular in the squad. Renowned for her height, strong hands, clever holds and ability to score freely, Fisher has a bright future ahead of her. In goal attack is Sophie Drakeford-Lewis who was also named in the extended Roses development squad. Drakeford-Lewis is only 21 and is an exciting prospect able to glide across the circle and drive into the circle with confidence. While she does not put up a wealth of shots her ability to detect the space and command the ball under the post makes her an exciting prospect for the future. Through the midcourt the likes of youngster Gabby Marshall is another one to keep your eye on given her success at such a young age. Her on court leadership is something to be envious and knows what it takes to win under pressure taking out the Bronze medal in the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup. Her ability to find space in the attacking third and deliver the ball on a platter to goalers sets her apart from fellow midcourters. Team Bath’s Imogen Allison takes out the centre position with the up and coming centre court player named in the Roses Future squad. She is classy with ball in hand but most importantly is renowned for her immense defensive pressure and gut running. Similar to the likes of Serena Guthrie, Allison has a no-nonsense approach constantly throwing her body on the line to win the ball back and propel it down the court. At just 21 Vicki Oyesola has locked down the wing defence position but can move into circle defence such is her skill and netball smarts. Rounding out the defensive end is Kate Shimmin and Summer Artman. Shimmin is no stranger to the big stage with her lean over the shot, aerial ability and impressive timing just a couple of things in her extensive netball repertoire. In three games, so far in the Vitality Superleague for London Pulse the goal defender has mustered up 10 intercepts showcasing just how damaging she can be, with her read of the play and quick footwork to get into position. Artman also provides plenty of excitement with her spatial awareness to mirror her opponents every move and stop any easy entrance into the goal circle. Unlucky not to get the start in the fantasy squad is Ella Clark with the talented goaler making her way back after time out with basketball, Yasmin Parsons through the midcourt and Halimat Adio down back.

Who would win?

It is a tricky decision given the fact that a couple of players in the England squad have in fact pulled on the Roses dress but are yet to lockdown a permanent position at an international level. However, given the wealth of talent Australia has and exposure majority of players named in the fantasy side have, to the highest level of domestic competition it is feasible to believe that the girls in the green and gold will have the edge. Most players, frequently take the court for their respective Suncorp Super Netball squads meaning they are constantly tested against the highest echelon of players in the world and get time to hone in their craft and while England have a wealth of highly talented players may lack the extra physicality and stamina.

Who would win this clash?
Australia A (Yet to make a debut)
England A (15 caps max)
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Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 2 – Team Bath continues hot start to season

THE second round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) brought plenty of controversy and close encounters with sides battling hard to claim early ascendancy. New recruits continued to make waves in their new colours while the tried and tested combinations of years gone by also proved to be the difference in narrow wins.

Severn Stars (56) defeated by Manchester Thunder (65)

The Thunder made it two from two to open the season downing the Severn Stars in convincing fashion. It was an even first term with only one goal separating the sides at quarter time before the Thunder started to hit their straps in the second to extend their lead. But a strong third quarter from the Stars kept them alive scoring 17 goals to reduce the margin and keep them in touch heading into the final quarter. However, the Thunder were not about to lie down piling on the pain in the final quarter with an impressing 19 goals to run out with a strong nine goal lead. Accuracy proved no issue for either side with a combined 14 shots missed while Manchester proved to be stronger under the post offensively with 11 rebounds.

It was a shooting showdown, with Stars goal shooter Georgia Rowe leading from the front with an impressive 43 goals from 45 attempts at 96 per cent. Rowe was strong under the post holding her space and using her hands to reign in passes that came her way. Up the other end, Joyce Mvula owned the circle with the Thunder goaler going about her business with 22 goals and Eleanor Cardwell doing even more damaging finishing with 32 goals to her name. Cardwell rotated between shooter and goal attack highlighting her endurance and skill under the post while Kathryn Turner also plied her trade in the goal circle with 11 goals. Through the midcourt Amy Carter and Ashleigh Neal combined well to feed the Thunder shooters while both Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke for the Severn Stars worked tirelessly in attack to hit the circle edge and provide good ball use to the shooters. Defensively Ama Agbeze stood tall with her experience on full display with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies also having an impact down back but not able to effectively shut down the Thunder offence.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

After a poor start to their first home game of the season the Lightning clawed their way back into the game and overran the Sirens who seemed to have all the answers in the opening term. Loughborough only managed a mere seven goals in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to the Sirens overwhelming pressure and ability to combat everything that the Lightning threw at them. But that quickly changed with Loughborough bursting out of the blocks in the second with 18 goals and returning the favour to their opposition limiting them to nine goals of their own. With momentum behind them the Lightning continued on that trajectory applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure with consecutive quarters of 17 goals apiece while the Sirens failed to recapture the same intensity they had in the first term gifting the Lightning a hard-fought win. To a certain extent the Sirens will be ruing their inaccuracy with 12 shots going astray while both sides will be pleased it was a relatively low penalty game with 45 and 35 apiece despite Samantha May receiving a warning due to her 14 penalties.

The Lightning were led by Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok with the goal shooter cool, calm and composed under the post only missing two goals and sinking an impressive 46 proving to be the go-to girl in her sides win. Cholhok was strong in the circle with Ella Clark playing a strong support role with 13 goals to keep the Lightning in the fight. Vicki Oyesola proved to the difference down in defence with her ability to read the play and take important intercepts or disrupt the attacking flow with her well-timed deflections. Up against Oyesola Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher showcased their strength and connection with clever shooter to shooter interplay. Goodwin was the dominant shooter with 31 goals from 38 attempts while Gallagher made an important 15 goal contribution while the seven goal cameo appearance from Niamh McCall was not enough to get them over the line. Zanele Vimbela continued her hot form in the defensive third with the defender racking up three intercepts pairing with Natalie Bright with ease. Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell were strong through the midcourt for the Sirens but wing Hannah Williams proved too much to handle with her clever touch around the circle edge.

Celtic Dragons (52) defeated by Team Bath (71)

The clash between the Dragons and Team Bath was filled with plenty of intensity and ferocity with Jamaican recruit Latanya Wilson order off the court after an ill-disciplined performance on the court. Down a player in the final term the Dragons found it hard to keep up with Team Bath who took it all in their stride and put on a show in the last quarter scoring a whopping 23 goals to 12 to run out with another strong win. It was an even start to the game with both sides sitting at 13 goals apiece before Bath got some separation in the second with a 19-goal term, a lead they were not willing to surrender despite their opponent’s best efforts. In the rebounding department, the ball seemed to fall Bath’s way credit to their positioning under the post winning both the offensive rebounds 12 to six and defensive nine to two.

After a stellar performance in her debut match Wilson tried to recreate her impressive form but struggled to stay away from the whistle. Her clumsiness and inability to play to the umpire’s call caused havoc, initially forced to the bench before re-entering the game and giving away a late penalty that was the final straw for the defender who found herself sent off for the remainder of the game leaving her side in the lurch. Abigail Tyrrel was a Trojan in defence working tirelessly to cover the slack left by Wilson but it was no match for the highly skilled shooting unit of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.  The load was relatively evenly split with Commane nailing 37 goals and Drakeford-Lewis posting 25 goals while newcomer Betsy Creak showed her hot hand with nine goals at 100 per cent. Co-captain Summer Artman was solid in goal keeper along with Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin out the front. For the Dragons, the shooting combination of Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman proved to be strong with Clinton nailing 31 goals and Coleman slotting 15 but it was not enough to worry the scoreboard. Shona O’Dwyer was a key cog in wing attack with her ability to feed the ball into the goalers.

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

It turned out to be a close contest between the Storm and Pulse with the latter prevailing thanks to their ability to ride the storm and hold strong under pressure. The Pulse well and truly blew the Storm out of the water with a staggering 19 to six goals opening term proving just how much power they have under the post. But the Storm were not about to be embarrassed fighting back hard in the second quarter giving the Pulse a taste of their own medicine with 18 goals of their own and keeping the Pulse to nine. With the margin at four goals at half time Surrey continued their hot form in the third quarter to take a slender one goal lead heading into the final change but failed to maintain that intensity falling agonisingly short. Storm had their fair share of chances missing 18 goals while the Pulse only missed seven shots. In terms of other key statistics neither side could be split with penalties 56-53 and intercepts seven to nine.

Sigi Burger has made herself at home in the new pink dress having an immediate impact under the post with her commanding height, good movement, holding ability and most importantly accuracy to post with 32 goals from 34 attempts at 94 per cent. She was ably assisted by goal attack Chiara Semple with 12 goals while wing attack Adean Thomas highlighted her ability to find space and thread the needle in the attacking third with her quick release. Wing defence Funmi Fadoju put up a strong performance for the Pulse doing her role to disrupt the attacking flow with four intercepts while goal keeper Halimat Adio plied her trade confusing the space and picking up three intercepts. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska proved that anything you can do I can do too with two intercepts combining well with fellow defender Katy Hughes. In the shooting circle, Karryn Bailey proved to have a hot hand with 35 goals while Sophie Hankin chipped in with 14 goals of her own.

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

In the final match of Round 2 the Wasps got on the winners list for the first time in 2020 after going down last week to reigning premiers, Manchester Thunder. Jade Clarke got things underway with the first centre pass of the game and that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with the Wasps claiming an early lead in the first quarter and building on that as the game went on. A strong second quarter performance from the home side helped to set up the win with the Mavericks unable to get their noses in front despite reducing the margin after half time. It was an even performance under the post with each side only missing nine goals apiece while the rebounding column was won by the Wasps both in offence and defence.

England Roses and Wasps goaler Rachel Dunn led from the front letting her consistency and silky movement do all the talking while he volume was another key aspect of her game with 33 goals. Australian youngster Alexia Baker made her debut, pairing nicely with the experience of Dunn in the circle and showcasing just how much class she has with 11 goals from 13 attempts. Katie Harris also put in the hard yards in the circle with an important 13 goals to get the Wasps over the line. Jo Trip and Razia Quashie had their work cut out for them against high quality opposition with Quashie displaying her defensive prowess with four intercepts and two rebounds. Sasha Corbin was her usual solid self through the midcourt finding space and using her experience to weave her way through the traffic to deliver well weighted passes into sister Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher. Fisher was strong to post with a game-high 38 goals such is her dominance and skill while Kadeen managed 15 goals. But both were put under the pump thanks to Wasps’ defenders Fran Williams and Hannah Knights with the two collecting six rebounds and five intercepts between them.

2020 Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 2 – Mavericks look to topple Wasps to stay on top

THE Vitality Netball Superleague is back for Round 2 this week after a massive opening round saw five big matches play out with plenty of new names joining the fray and proving they have what it takes to dominate in the competition. With three games on Saturday and two on Monday, Round 2 of the Superleague is set to mix things up.

Severn Stars v. Manchester Thunder
Worcester Arena

The Severn Stars will have their work cut out for them this round, coming up against the reigning premiers in Manchester Thunder off the back of a disappointing Round 1 effort. The Thunder are sure to come out flying after a stellar performance last round saw them continue their streak over last season’s minor premiers Wasps, while the Stars will really need to lift their game after struggling against the wrath of the Mavericks. Stars key pickup Liana Leota will take on her former side after jumping ship at the end of last season, so will need to really prove her point through the midcourt to ensure the Thunder know what they’re missing through the midcourt. Thunder have their own weapons however, with Caroline O’Hanlon, Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm more than up to the task through the centre third, able to transition from defence to attack with ease, especially safe in the knowledge that Joyce Mvula, Ellie Cardwell and Kathryn Turner are able to have an impact to post. Stars have a plethora of options in defence, with Malawian, Towera Vinkhumbo proving she has what it takes in the Superleague last round while the likes of Ama Agbeze, Nia Jones and Ella Powell-Davies all have plenty to offer with experience and cleanliness alike. Georgia Rowe was a real target at the post last week with her height and clean hands, while Paige Reed provided a handy option when required to open up the circle and switch up the rotation.

Loughborough Lightning v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sir David Wallace Arena

With both sides heading in this round winless and sitting toward the bottom of the ladder, both Lightning and Sirens will want to up their game in Round 2. Despite a disappointing loss to Team Bath last round, the Lightning will likely still come into this match as the favourites against the Sirens, meaning the Sirens will really need to prove themselves as contenders and test the Lightning by applying pressure on key shooter, Mary Cholhok, who relies on her height to get the ball. Fellow Lightning goaler, Ella Clark will need to really inject herself into this game after going missing last round, while the likes of Nat Panagarry will want to lead from the front alongside Hannah Joseph and Vicki Oyesola transitioning through defence to propel the ball forward and prevent easy turnovers. Something the Sirens have going for them is the ability of their goalers to share the load, with Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher shooting relatively evenly last week and getting ready to welcome young gun Emma Barrie back into the fray after a breakout 2019 season. Sirens pickup Zanele Vimbela was a handy inclusion on the court last week with six intercepts so will want to mirror that effort against an ultimately stronger side than their Round 1 opposition.

Celtic Dragons v. Team Bath
Cardiff Met University

Celtic Dragons did not get the strong start they were after last round with a frustrating one-goal loss to Surrey Storm, while Team Bath continued their streak over Loughborough Lightning with a solid 14-goal win putting them into second on the ladder. Despite missing star centre Serena Guthrie this season, Bath proved they have got the guts, determination and skill to get the job done with the defensive minded side dominating last round, making for a really tough competitor for the Dragons who had patches of greatness last week but to no avail. Kim Commane was a revelation at the post for Bath last round, shooting 55 goals to be the top scorer of the week so the Dragons will need to be at their best to shut down the quick moving Aussie. Dee Bolakoro and Latanya Wilson will be set the task of shutting Commane down. Dragons’ midcourt will need to really stand up defensively to deny access to the circle. For Bath, the defensive effort through the midcourt was their real focus last season making for one of the toughest defensive units in the competition, so the likes of Summer Artman and Imogen Allison will need to hold that up with the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown no longer joining the fray due to maternity leave.

Surrey Storm v. London Pulse
Surrey Sports Park

The first of two Monday matches, this game between Storm and Pulse will be a real test to see which side can capitalise off a strong start last week with both sides coming into this game off the back of a tight victory. Both teams picked up key players over the off season so expect the goaling battle to be a big one, with internationals Sigi Burger (South Africa) and Karyn Bailey (Australia) lining up in goal shooter for their respective sides. A big question mark hanging over this match will be a matter of cleanliness, with these sides picking up a combined six cautions and one warning in Round 1. Both teams will want to clean up their act, though the intensity from both sides should make for a relatively contest across the court with some real interesting battles set to take place. The likes of Mikki Austin and Lorraine Kowalewska will be key cogs for Storm with their respective ability to change the game quickly a real  testament to their skill and timing. Kowalewska will have her work cut out for her against Burger who shot at 100 per cent last week, while Austin is sure to inject experience wherever she plays, taking on the likes of Ashleigh Dekker, Adean Thomas and Michelle Drayne through the midcourt.

Wasps Netball v. Saracens Mavericks
Ricoh Arena

Mavericks will be in for a tough one this round coming up against last season’s runner up in the Wasps, who are coming into this week off the back of a seven goal loss in Round 1. The Mavs will look to capitalise on their own massive start to the season after a 21 goal win over Severn Stars last week, making for a tough battle between two real contenders. These two sides stayed relatively similar over the off-season, not losing or gaining many key players, meaning the Mavericks will really need to build off their pre-season after going down to Wasps in close encounters twice last season. Both sides have key players across the court, with Wasps goalers Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris able to share the load evenly and accurately to post. It’s a different story for the Mavericks, with George Fisher shouldering a lot of the load in goal shooter while Kadeen Corbin works the circle and plays more of a feeder role, but can also turn and shoot to be a real threat. The feeding ability of Georgia Lees will be key for the Mavs, but with the experience of Jade Clarke and Amy Flanagan able to rotate through both centre and wing defence for the Wasps, the Mavs could be really tested. Defensively, the aerial ability of Razia Quashie in goal keeper will be key to produce turnover ball, though the real key will be to balance staying on the body of Dunn to deny entry to the circle and moving off to hunt loose ball in the goal third. Meanwhile, the likes of Josie Huckle and Fran Williams will be doing everything in their power to deny Fisher the ball.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 1 – Team Bath and Mavericks claim big victories

ROUND 1 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) started in style with reigning premiers Manchester Thunder keeping the good times rolling, while last years cellar dwellers London Pulse got an early win on the board.

Strathclyde Sirens (51) defeated by London Pulse (53)

It was a tight contest from the opening quarter with only three goals separating them at half-time credit to the high intensity from both sides and desperation to get the first win on the board. A strong 12-goal final quarter all but gifted the Pulse the win doing just enough to keep the Pulse at bay. It was hard to differentiate between both teams but the Pulse made the most of their opportunities under the post sitting at 51 per cent while defensively they gobbled up 100 per cent of rebounds that came their way. Meanwhile the Sirens showcased their defensive prowess with more intercepts.

Shooting duo Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher formed a strong partnership and although Goodwin slotted more goals with 31 compared to Gallagher’s 20 the load was relatively evenly spread. Goodwin showcased her vision as well collecting 13 goal assists and strength to take four rebounds. Through the midcourt Claire Maxwell showed her worth with two intercepts and a deflection but gave the ball away cheaply with 10 penalties and four turnovers to her name. Recruit Zanele Vimbela set tongues wagging with the highly touted South African defender picking up six intercepts and three deflections for her efforts. For the Pulse the addition of Sigi Burger paid dividends with the towering SPAR Proteas shooter nailing 44 goals proving to be a key target under the post. Chiara Semple played a good support role to Burger in the circle while Adean Thomas was impressive through midcourt. The defensive trio of Michelle Drayne, Lindsay Keable and Helimat Adio proved to be too much to handle with the three picking up six intercepts and two deflections between them.

Celtic Dragons (43) defeated by Surrey Storm (44)

A mere goal separated both sides at the final whistle with the Surrey Storm coming from behind to knock over the Dragons and secure their first three points of the season. The Dragons had all the ascendancy but let it slip right through their fingers in the fourth quarter with the Storm adding 13 goals to their total compared to the Dragons who only managed to slot another seven. The Storm had more unforced turnovers than their opponents but sat at a higher shooting percentage helping them to just sneak past the Dragons.

Amy Clinton proved to be the go-to-girl for Celtic Dragons with the goal shooter doing the bulk of the scoring with 26 goals while the goal attack position rotated between Brittany Coleman who posted nine goals and Jamaican Rebekah Robinson with eight goals. In her first game of VNSL Latanya Wilson took the competition by storm and claimed player of the match honours thanks to her impressive defensive efforts to repel the ball coming down the court and do the unthinkable with 10 intercepts, two rebounds and three deflections. For Surrey, it was Australian Karryn Bailey that led the way in the goal circle with 31 goals while both Sophie Hankin and Yasmin Hodge-England chipped in with four and five goals respectively to get their side over the line. Through the midcourt, coach/captain Mikki Austin got the ball rolling with her clever movement and impressive vision.

Saracens Mavericks (70) defeated Severn Stars (49)

It was a convincing second half performance by the Mavericks who did not look like giving the Stars any chance to work their way back into the contest. After being surprised in the opening term thanks to the Stars opening up a six-goal lead, the Mavericks wrestled back momentum and put the foot well and truly down. The Mavericks put on a show in the second quarter adding a whopping 23 goals to their total and establishing a nine-goal lead heading into half-time. That lead only grew as the match went on, eventually running away with a 21-goal victory. Accuracy proved to be no issues for the Mavs, while their defensive intent was also on display winning the intercepts battle. The unforced errors column leaned towards the Stars while in terms of turnovers the Mavericks had more.

Roses goaler, George Fisher did not put a foot wrong in her outing for the Mavs with the talented goal shooter nailing 51 goals credit to her silky footwork and strong holds under the post. Fisher provided a good release target while goal attack Kadeen Corbin got to work opening up space around her and hitting the scoreboard with 19 goals. Not only did she do the attacking role well but so too made her presence felt in defence with two impressive intercepts. Defensively goal keeper Razia Quashie was a rock down back using her read of the play to pluck off seven intercepts along with two deflections. Her partnership with Jo Trip was strong stopping Severn Stars shooters Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed any easy avenue to goal. Rowe top scored for the stars with 32 goals while through the midcourt Liana Leota used her speed to hit circle edge. New comer Ama Agbeze had her moments of magic but collected plenty of attention from the umpire with eight penalties.

Team Bath (72) defeated Loughborough Lightning (58)

After falling short of the grand final in season 2019, Team Bath came out with a real point to prove and unfortunately for the Lightning they were on the end of their scoring barrage. Bath put on the after burners in the second half putting on a 20 and 19-goal spectacle to all but seal the deal ultimately running the Lightning off their feet. It was relatively even in the first quarter with both sides working on their connections across the court but once Bath kicked into gear they could not be stopped despite not having the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown and Serena Guthrie. In terms of accuracy, Bath was deadly under the post making the most of their opportunities. Not only was their attacking end on fire, but so too defence claiming more intercepts and rebounds than Loughborough.

Team Bath underwent a leadership change over the off-season with Kim Commane and Summer Artman at the helm after Usoro-Brown announced her pregnancy. The co-captaincy seemed to do wonders for Commane, with the Aussie goaler putting on a clinic in the goal circle with an impressive 55 goals, while youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis chimed in with a handy 13 goals to really punish their opponents. Betsy Creak also played a good cameo role with her four goals while through the midcourt Imogen Allison plied her trade in centre getting hands to ball and delivering well-weighted passes into the circle. Mary Cholhok was the dominant shooter for the Lightning putting up 48 goals with goal attack Ella Clark nailing nine goals but it was not enough to worry Bath’s defence end. Nat Panagarry and Jessica Shaw shared the centre position while down back Alice Harvey worked tirelessly collecting three intercepts and two deflections in trying conditions.

Manchester Thunder (62) defeated Wasps Netball (55)

In the grand final rematch it was once again the Thunder that got the wood over the Wasps with a seven-goal victory. The Wasps were never really in the match with the Thunder establishing an early lead and keeping them at arms-length throughout. Just like a well-oiled machine Manchester kicked into gear from the first whistle forcing the Wasps onto the back foot and shutting down any easy avenue to goal. The Thunder seemed to reign supreme in all areas over the court with their accuracy marginally better than the Wasps and collecting both more intercepts and rebounds than their opponents highlighting their increased hunt for the ball. Despite having a higher percentage of turnovers with 71 per cent compared to 29 per cent they managed to have an impact when they had ball in hand.

With plenty of deadly options under the post, Eleanor Cardwell got the start and did the most damage with the shooter putting on 40 goals while Joyce Mvula also showcased her explosiveness with 17 goals of her own. Kathryn Turner also hit the scoreboard with five goals highlighting the versatility they have in the goal circle. Through the midcourt both Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm used their vision and speed to have an impact across the court whether it be in defence or in transition. Defensively Loreen Ngwira was a rock picking up four intercepts showcasing her strength and read of the play. For the Wasps the tried and trusted combination of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris lived up to expectations with the two rotating through the circle nicely and complimenting each other’s style of play. Dunn was the top scorer with 34 goals while Harris showed her worth under the post with 20 goals. Jade Clarke was strong in wing defence while Fran Williams showed her impressive footwork and defensive mindset with two intercepts and six deflections.

Vitality Netball Superleague wrap: Grand Final

IN such a big season of the Vitality Netball Superleague, it is no wonder the biggest game of the season went down to the wire. Despite a hard and fast start from Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder came back from a six-goal buffer to win by five goals, with an exceptional shared goaling accuracy of 89 per cent all but cementing the victory. Meanwhile, Team Bath bumped off Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff, finishing the finals series in the same position they started at.

It was Manchester Thunder legend, Kerry Almond’s final game before retirement, and it was a fitting way to leave the competition – with a third Grand Final victory under her belt. The Wasps started off strong with a solid 16 goal to 11 first quarter, speeding away to an early lead as they shot four goals nil early in the first before Thunder got a goal on the board. Thunder’s patience through the midcourt is a key component of their play, however the Wasps took control of the movement early to limit options in attack and close space through the centre third. Wasps shooters, Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn were exceptional early, finding the post and space in the circle with ease, poking holes in Thunder’s defensive unit. Defensively, the likes of Almond and Emma Dovey seemed unable to bring their usual flair to the match, focusing more on preventing entry to the goal circle than generating excitement around the ring. However, it was not the lack of skill defensively for the Thunder that had the side chasing early, but instead the impeccable defensive work from Wasps’ Fran Williams and Hannah Knights, creating confusion for feeders as they battled relentlessly on Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula.

The second quarter saw a momentum switch as the Thunder put on the accelerator, shooting 18 goals to 11 to have a two goal lead at half time. Thunder’s composure settled as they finally took control, finding space in the goal third as Turner and Mvula started to come into their own, slotting goal after goal courtesy of pinpoint feeds around the circle. Forced errors across the court from the Wasps cost them, while the defensive unit seemed to take their foot off the pedal as Thunder’s confidence began to grow. Caroline O’Hanlon came into her own to start winning the centre court battle against dominant defensive midcourter, Jade Clarke, finding the ball better through the middle of the court and feeding well at the centre pass, switching it up as the Wasps fought for turnovers. Turner and Mvula continued to fight it out in the circle, gaining some ground and putting shots up from all over the ring.

But while a second half push from the Thunder seemed imminent, Wasps would not go down without a fight as an 18 goal to 10 third quarter saw the Wasps wrestle back control of the match to lead by six at three quarter time. Amy Flanagan was stellar in wing defence against speedy New Zealander, Liana Leota, limiting her space and reducing her role as Thunder struggled once again to move the ball through attack, missing the fluidity they gained in the second term. Leota’s ability to find the circle edge with ease was nullified by Flanagan’s brand of defence, causing issues as the circle defenders gained confidence once more, picking off the loose ball. Thunder’s errors started to creep back up as Wasps once again took the game by storm, with the likes of Bongi Msomi skilfully feeding lightning-fast passes into the circle under pressure.

The final quarter saw both sides battle for control, with Thunder wing defence, Laura Malcolm standing up and producing some of her best defensive work for the season against Msomi as the match came down to the wire. A spanner in the works midway through the final quarter saw dominant Thunder and Malawi Queens goal shooter, Mvula go down with a knee injury, causing an injury time-out for the side as Ellie Cardwell took the court in goals. In what many thought could be the straw to break the camel’s back, Cardwell stepped up to the plate and brought her own skill and exceptional footwork to the position, finding space and shooting at close to 100 per cent accuracy. The switch in goals seemed to spur on the Thunder, once again swinging the momentum in their favour and holding on despite the exceptional defensive efforts across the board from the Wasps, limiting the usually dominant side to only seven goals in the final term as Thunder ran away with it. Exceptional composure and skill under pressure saw Manchester Thunder win their third Superleague title, 52 – 57, fighting back and proving they were well deserving of the victory.

THIRD/FOURTH PLAYOFF: Loughborough Lightning v. Team Bath

In the pre-Grand Final opener it was down to the wire for the tough tussle between Bath and Lightning, with Bath coming out on top after a stellar second half shooting effort was too much for the Lightning (56 – 62). Down by one goal at the final change, Bath turned a corner to come out on top, shooting 19 goals to 12 to win the match and prove the dominant form they have displayed for majority of the season. Player of the match, Imogen Allison was well deserving of her title in wing defence, causing upsets around the court and making it difficult for Lightning to feed the ball into the circle. The likes of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane were exceptional at the post, retaining their dominant shooting accuracy as they put up shot after shot. Defenders, Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown were spot-on in the second half, causing issues in the goal circle as Lightning’s Ella Clark and Mary Cholhok struggled under pressure. Artman and Usoro-Brown did what they do best, creating turnovers and moving the ball back through the midcourt with speed and precision courtesy of Serena Guthrie in centre. Nat Panagarry was a shining light through the midcourt for Lightning, doing well early to disrupt movement and flow, while Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan took control early through defence to disrupt Bath’s rhythm in attack. However it was not enough, with Team Bath ultimately pulling back Lightning’s early lead to win by six goals.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Grand Final

SATURDAY’S Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is set to be a big one, with the two highest scoring teams of the season raring to go in the biggest match of the league at London’s Copper Box Arena. Wasps Netball will defend their Superleague title and attempt their third victory in a row, while Manchester Thunder last won a premiership in 2015 so will be ready for a tough fight against the Wasps. Meanwhile, Loughborough Lightning will host Team Bath in a playoff for third as an opener to the Grand Final.

WASPS NETBALL vs. MANCHESTER THUNDER
5:30 pm

Thunder will come into this match with confidence coming off the back of two high pressure wins over the Wasps this season in Rounds 2 and 11. Both sides have shown time and time again this season that they can stand up to the pressure when the moment arrives, so this grand final is sure to finish with a bang. In what is expected to be a big final match of the season for both teams, it is likely to be the midcourt play that has a significant effect on results, with Thunder’s Caroline O’Hanlan, Liana Leota and Laura Malcolm likely lining up against the highly skilled Jade Clarke, Bongi Msomi and Amy Flanagan. In what is a fairly mixed offensive-defensive midcourt battle, it will be down to who removes their opponent from the match and is able to produce scoring opportunities under pressure. With the likes of Leota and goal shooter, Joyce Mvula appearing to have the ball on a string against Team Bath in the semi finals, Wasps are likely to look to the defensive unit of Clarke and Flanagan to shut down Leota’s skilled feeds and reduce scoring opportunities before the ball enters the circle. For Wasps, the skilled rotation and footwork of Hannah Knights, Fran Williams and Josie Huckle will prove vital as they fight to keep the ball out of the hands of their opposition in Mvula, Ellie Cardwell and Kathryn Turner. Thunder will have a similar issue through their defence, with speedster, Msomi almost unstoppable with ball in hand, especially with the likes of prolific shooters, Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post to share the load. The defensive partnership of captain, Emma Dovey and retiree, Kerry Almond will be key in this match, with the pair needing to be at their absolute highest calibre to ensure they limit the Wasps from putting shots up, while Rebekah Airey has the ability to come off the sidelines and have an immediate impact.

LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING vs. TEAM BATH
3:00 pm

In what is a slightly lower stakes game on Grand Final day, Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath will take the court one last time for the 2019 season as they fight to finish third on the VNSL ladder. Team Bath, like Manchester, will come into this matchup with a leg up, having beaten the Lightning on both occasions this season. However, Lightning will be raring to go given their big loss against Wasps in the semi final, so will want to come out strong against the defensive pressure of Bath. Last time they met, Bath only come out on top by two goals, so are likely to fight tooth and nail to ensure they get a third win in a row. Bath’s aerial defensive unit of Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown will have a task ahead of them as they take on tall goalers, Mary Cholhok and Ella Clark, while down the other end Lightning’s defence will also need to be on fine form as they take on the likes of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, whose partnership and volume has improved with every match together. The matchup between England Roses’, Serena Guthrie and Nat Panagarry is sure to be one to watch, with both players ready and willing to put their body on the line to ensure victory for their side.

Vitality Netball Superleague wrap: Semi-Finals

It was a big weekend of semi-finals action in the Vitality Netball Superleague, with the two most reliable teams of 2019 winning their respective matches and bound for the grand final this week. Wasps Netball gave Loughborough Lightning a second half shock, beating the side by 20 goals after only being up by three at half-time. Manchester Thunder managed a three-goal win under pressure from Team Bath in Kerry Almond’s final home game for her career.

The Wasps are through to their third consecutive VNSL final this week after a 41 goal to 24 second half saw the Lightning struggle under pressure from the reigning premiers. The Wasps stuck to their starting seven for the entire match, pushing through early patches of discomfort courtesy of Lightning’s midcourt work ethic to come away with the solid win. The likes of Fran Williams and Amy Flanagan were on fire for Wasps, defending the goal third with speed and skill, denying entry to the goal circle and putting the pressure on Lightning shooters, Mary Cholhok and Ella Clark. The shooting pair were at their usual standard at the post, however were pressured at every pass and denied possession time and time again. Their predictable play was too easy for the Wasps to read, proving their defensive read of play with intercepts and deflections alike. Lightning’s Nat Panagarry put her footwork and clever movement on show to weave through defence, however was blocked from making space at every move, forced to pass backwards. In attack for Wasps, Bongi Msomi was unstoppable credit to her speed off the mark and ability to put herself on circle edge to feed the ball into the shooters. Jade Clarke was solid as ever in centre, moving fluidly through the court as she provided a strong option transitioning from defence to attack. Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris did a wealth of work inside the goal circle courtesy of feeds from Msomi, putting up the volume and accuracy required for a big win. The loss of Cholhok early in the final quarter all but spelled defeat for Lightning, struggling to put ball to post in a 10 goal to 21 quarter to finish off the season.

Team Bath put in the hard yards to ruin Thunder’s finals chances, however could not do enough against the defensive onslaught of the home side, going down by three goals as the Thunder prevailed. With both sides heavily reliant on the form of their defensive unit it was always set to be a fairly even matchup, however finals pressure saw both sides battle hard all game, flying through to receive every loose ball and create opportunities forward. The likes of Serena Guthrie and Imogen Allison were pivotal through the midcourt and defensive third, forcing turnovers and creating opportunities for Bath’s Rachel Shaw in the centre third, while their defensive unit denied the ball entry to the Thunder goal circle. The phenomenal defensive duos of Bath’s Eboni Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman and Thunder’s Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond (in potentially her final match before retirement) were key in this matchup, living up to their season form with an exceptional display across the board from both sides. In attack for Thunder, the likes of Liana Leota and player of the match, Joyce Mvula paired seamlessly, almost having the ball on a string despite Bath’s defensive efforts. At the other end, the skilful movement of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane saw the pair have no shortage of ball, finishing strong with a 15 goal to 13 final quarter, however it was Bath’s wastefulness with possession in the late stages of the match that cost them a win.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Semi Finals

THE first round of Vitality Netball Superleague finals for 2019 starts this weekend, with all four 2018 finalists backing up their dominant season last year with a fantastic effort again. With both matches played back-to-back on Saturday – albeit at different venues, teams will know early who their grand final opposition will be. Wasps Netball in first will host their 2018 Grand Final rivals, Loughborough Lightning at 5pm at Ricoh Arena for what is sure to be a big match, while Manchester Thunder will host Team Bath at 7pm at Belle Vue as both teams fight for glory.

A stellar start to the season saw Wasps Netball go undefeated for seven matches before three losses in the space of a month put a blip on the radar, forcing the Wasps to re-evaluate as Manchester Thunder overtook them on the ladder. Thunder were another side that had a strong start to the season with four wins in a row, always one step behind the Wasps as their defensive pressure consistently smothered their opposition. Loughborough Lightning had an average start to the season, winning only two from five in the opening rounds before lifting with a big win over Thunder, boosting their work rate and continuing their good form with a seven game winning streak from there. Team Bath have also had a shaky season, ultimately finishing strong but struggling with consistency across the board before settling and winning seven of their past nine matches to make finals for the thirteenth time in 14 years.

Semi-Final 1: Wasps Netball (1) vs. Loughborough Lightning (4)

This matchup is set to be a big one, with both sides overcoming rough patches early in the year to make finals, also maintaining strong winning streaks for periods of the season. The match could go either way, with both sides winning one of their two matches this season, though Lightning’s Round 10 victory by one goal after a 20 goal deficit in the opening match of the season is more likely to be an indicator of how this match could go. That being said, Wasps finished two games clear on top of the ladder, meaning the match could effectively go either way. Both sides will need to be at their best defensively, as both sides have the ability to shoot a large volume in a short amount of time credit to the speed and strength of their respective feeders. The likes of Wasps’ Rachel Dunn and Lightning’s Mary Cholhok are the ones to watch, with both in spectacular form as they head into finals despite their vastly different styles of play – Cholhok a primary shooter, holding at the post, while Dunn shares the load with fellow goaler, Katie Harris. Lightning goal attack, Ella Clark will need to be in on the action from the get-go, with her long bomb accuracy a key part of Lightning’s flow in attack. For Lightning to take home a win this week they will need to shut down the exceptional speed and skill of the Wasps’ midcourt, with the likes of Bongi Msomi and Jade Clarke able to cause havoc if left alone. Lightning pair, Nat Panagarry and Hannah Joseph have solidified well this season, so the midcourt battle is sure to be one to watch. Defensively, both teams have the ability to turn the tide of the match if their defensive players are on fire, with the likes of Tuaine Keenan and Vicki Oyesola big ball winners for the Lightning, while the tactical rotation of Fran Williams, Josie Huckle and Hannah Williams for the Wasps has proved to be a key defensive play for a large part of the season.

Semi-Final 2: Manchester Thunder (2) vs. Team Bath (3)

Though Manchester enter this semi-final with a home advantage, Bath will come into this matchup with the confidence and upper hand, having beat Thunder on both occasions this season, albeit by close margins. Given Bath won their second match against Thunder less than two weeks ago, Thunder are sure to come in hard and fast to win back the points. This match is sure to be a defensive showcase, with both teams playing a predominantly defensive game credit to their full court pressure and ability to gather turnover ball to advantage. Bath has arguably one of the best defensive lineups in the competition, with Summer Artman, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Imogen Allison leading the charge, well backed up by defensive midcourter, Serena Guthrie, whose run and carry through the centre court is unrivalled. For Thunder, the combinations between captain Emma Dovey, Kerry Almond and Rebekah Airey are key in defence, with all three players fantastic at applying pressure on and off the ball and able to create turnovers out of thin air. With both Laura Malcolm and Amy Carter able to enter the match and create a stir, the likes of Mia Ritchie and Rachel Shaw will need to ensure their connections forward to sharpshooters, Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis have pinpoint accuracy. Bath’s defensive unit will need to keep a keen eye on New Zealander, Liana Leota, another player who can have a big impact in a short period of time credit to her drives to circle edge and crafty feeds. With Leota on fire, the likes of Ellie Cardwell and Joyce Mvula should have no issue receiving the pass to put up shots, though Bath’s smooth and skilful circle movement will do anything they can to disrupt the space.