It has been a week of two halves for Severn Stars: the side, which was a new addition to the league last season, has often promised much but failed to hold its nerve when the going gets tough. On court, this week, the pieces fell the way of the Gloucestershire side, which battled past a feisty Celtic Dragons effort to notch up a 53-52 win in Cardiff.
Trailing by five goals at three quarter time, it looked as though Stars were destined for another narrow defeat – but with Dragons’ key shooter Chelsea Lewis leaving the court at the start of the final period, Stars sniffed an opportunity. The visitors put on an unanswered run of nine goals which pulled them right back into contention, and maintained cool heads to keep possession as the clock ran down.
However, the joy of the win turned to despair later in the week with news that Stars have been deducted three points after playing two overseas players in the same area of the court for a time in a recent match against Manchester Thunder. A genuine error, this has removed the advantage Stars gained from the win over Dragons, although they still remain in contention for inclusion in the end of season Fast Five All Stars tournament.
London Pulse’s baptism of fire in the Netball Superleague continued with a 67-35 loss to reigning champions Wasps in Coventry. After two close losses, Wasps were in unforgiving mood and punished Pulse’s errors in clinical fashion.
Rachel Dunn combined seamlessly with Tamsin Moala in the Wasps shooting circle, and with midcourters Bongi Msomi and Jade Clarke relentless in driving the ball to goal, Pulse were frequently left chasing their opponents without the opportunity to establish an attacking rhythm of their own.
Wasps coach Mel Mansfield was pleased that her side has returned to winning ways but knows that sterner challenges await. Meanwhile, with the loss of midcourter Sophia Candappa for the rest of the season, after the announcement of her first pregnancy, rumours abound that a familiar face could be returning to the Black and Yellows to take her place – watch this space!
Manchester Thunder maintained their place ahead of the chasing pack at the top of the league table with a convincing 62-36 win away to Strathclyde Sirens. Despite an April Fool’s story suggesting she would be returning to the court, Thunder head coach Karen Greig remained on the bench and instead took the opportunity to give her full squad a run out during the game.
Thunder’s trademark smothering defence and lightning fast attack were much in evidence, and with the squad now fully invested in making Kerry Almond’s last year in the Superleague a winning one, it would be foolish to bet against Thunder being in contention for the top prize at the end of the season.
Sara Bayman’s Loughborough Lightning side won an entertaining encounter 54-49 against Saracens Mavericks. The Hertfordshire side led early on, with only a couple of goals separating the teams, before Lightning applied full court pressure in the third quarter to turn over ball and take advantage.
Loughborough’s captain Natalie Panagarry showed once again why she is one of the form midcourters of the season,working the ball effortlessly from defence to attack, and combining well with her shooters to release them into space. In this mood, she will be hard for England coach Tracey Neville to ignore when World Cup selections are being made.
In the final match of the round, TeamBath were too strong for Surrey Storm to handle, taking a 57-48 away win. But it was far from one way traffic, with the two sides going goal for goal for much of the first half, and level at 24 apiece at half time.
Storm allowed errors to creep in during the start of the third quarter, and the quality of TeamBath’s midcourt and clinical finishing allowed the former champions to ease ahead. Sterner challenges lie ahead if Bath are to make the play offs – they are currently in third position in the league table, but travel to Wasps this weekend: expect fireworks!