The traditional way to spend the Easter weekend has long been to scoff as many chocolate eggs as possible – this year, the Vitality Netball Superleague delivered a different way to overindulge, with a two day feast of netball that gave spectators the chance to weigh up all the play-off contenders at two venues.
Wasps cemented their place at the top of the table, and secured a play off spot with two impressive wins, 76-42 over Surrey Storm and 64-48 over Celtic Dragons. In both games, head coach Mel Mansfield was able to ring the changes in her line up without interrupting the flow of games, and the champions look to have overcome the missed connections and errors which led to unexpected losses earlier in the season. With only two rounds of the regular season, the Coventry-based side is running back into impressive form.
The remaining play off spots are still to be confirmed, but Manchester Thunder remain in second place despite an unexpected loss 57-60 to Loughborough Lightning on Easter Sunday. The day before, the side from the north west had impressed in a 71-42 victory over London Pulse, but against Lightning, Manchester allowed a narrow lead to slip through their fingers and, inspired by another captain’s performance from Natalie Panagarry, Loughborough pounced to edge to a narrow win. Following a 59-44 victory over Strathclyde Sirens on the Saturday, this moved Lightning into fourth place in the league, three points behind Manchester and level with TeamBath.
Former champions Bath maintained third place in the league with an impressive 53-42 win over Severn Stars, but could find no way through against Mavericks, losing 51-45 to the Hertfordshire side. In securing their second win of the weekend, 55-50 against Celtic Dragons, Mavericks kept up the pressure on the top four. However, they are still three points adrift from the top four, and with a potentially tricky game against Severn Stars in this week’s round, are far from certain to break into the play off spots.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Severn Stars defeated Surrey Storm, thanks to some eye-catching defensive work by Sam Cook (for many the stand out defender of the league this season) and Leah Kennedy. Meanwhile, London Pulse’s miserable season continued – despite leading at the end of the first quarter against Strathclyde Sirens, a horror second quarter during which the London side scored only six goals allowed the Scottish side to take the lead, and despite their best efforts, Pulse could find no way back.
With two rounds of the regular season remaining, it is still hard to pick the ultimate play off line up: with so many shocks and surprises, there is sure to be plenty of drama before the final whistle blows