Contributors: Zara Collings, Eve Cobbett, Iona St Joseph, Bethany Lord and Ian Harkin
Overview of Round 3
By Zara Collings
After being spoiled with a double header weekend to kick off the season, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like we had a long wait until Round 3 got going on Sunday, with Storm taking on Rhinos in the first match. With the mid-week announcement that key shooter Donnell Wallam would miss a significant portion of the season due to fracturing her radius bone and that co-captain Fi Toner and starting goal keeper Tuaine Keenan would not be available for a number of weeks, there was some uncertainty as to how Rhinos would go without three of their starting seven players. Taking to court with grit, determination and an impressive commitment to their game plan, Rhino’s again proved they were a real force to be reckoned with in 2021.
Rookie of the Round: After losing Wallam to injury, there was a lot of pressure placed upon nineteen year old Sienna Rushton to step up and deliver. Whilst her accuracy was a little shaky at times, shooting at 72%, her movement around the circle and ability to take ball under the immense pressure of the double-marking Storm defensive end was vital to Rhino’s success. Her partnership with Dixon looked solid and she really impressed in her player of the match performance.
Both Surrey Storm and Strathclyde Sirens got key points on the board with convincing wins over Celtic Dragons, who are lingering at the bottom of the table, taking no points from their first four outings. As Tamsin Greenway pointed out, it is clear that Dragons don’t know their strongest seven and it is a race against time for them to find and solidify their midcourt line-up before any more blowout games leave them trailing any further. Despite their defensive woes, Amy Clinton has proven to be a true rock for the Welsh side, once again shooting in the high nineties across both games. Leaving the court in the fourth quarter with what looked like a head injury, it is vital that Dragons are able to get her back on court before their clash with Mavericks next weekend.
In one of the more surprising blow-outs of the weekend, Loughborough Lightning took the win over an out of sorts Saracens Mavericks 60-35. Whilst Mavs do have some key players yet to take to court in 2021, with both injury and Covid-19 protocol preventing the inclusion of South African shooter Ine-Marie Venter and English Rose Jodie Gibson in the match day squad, there was a bit of “bib bingo” going on in an attempt to combat the sheer passion from Lightning. Mavericks struggled to settle in to these changes and lacked cohesion through court.
The final match of Round 3 saw Team Bath cement their position at the top of the table, with a comprehensive victory against Wasps. Whilst Wasps had moments of their expected brilliance, they did not have answers to the clinical physicality brought by Bath. Making her return to the Superleague in the third quarter, Layla Gusgoth demonstrated her class with an impressive 7 deflections across 24 minutes of netball. Player of the match Sophie Drakeford-Lewis made another spirited case for Roses selection, maintaining 100% accuracy whilst contributing to key defensive pressure through court.
Stats Leaders of the Week
Mary Cholhok 40 (Lightning v Mavericks)
Vicki Oyesola 7 (Rhinos v Storm)
Leah Middleton 7 (Storm v Rhinos)
Razia Quashie 7 (Mavericks v Lightning)
Most Offensive Rebounds:
Mary Cholhok 5 (Lightning v Mavericks)
Most Defensive Rebounds:
Leah Middleton 4 (Storm v Rhinos)
Vicki Oyesola 7 (Rhinos v Storm)
LEEDS RHINOS 50 def SURREY STORM 44
Karyn Bailey 32/34 (94%)
Frankie Wells 8/11 (73%)
Sophie Kelly 4/5 (80%)
TOTAL 44/50 (88%)
Gains 12 (Middleton 7)
Sienna Rushton 34/47 (72%)
Rhea Dixon 16/23 (70%)
TOTAL 50/70 (71%)
Gains 10 (Oyesola 7)
Player of the Match: Sienna Rushton (Rhinos)
STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 52 def CELTIC DRAGONS 35
Emma Barrie 30/32 (94%)
Bethan Goodwin 21/23 (91%)
Lynsey Gallagher 1/2 (50%)
TOTAL 52/57 (91%)
Gains 12 (Abernethy 5)
Amy Clinton 31/32 97%
Laura Rudland 2/2 100%
Rebekah Robinson 2/4 50%
TOTAL 35/38 92%
Gains 10 (Tyrrell 6)
Player of the Match: Bethan Goodwin (Sirens)
MANCHESTER THUNDER 57 def LONDON PULSE 30
Joyce Mvula 31/31 (100%)
Eleanor Cardwell 21/24 (87%)
Berri Neil 4/6 (66%)
Lois Pearson 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 57/62 (91%)
Olivia Tchine 12/15 (80%)
Kira Rothwell 11/12 (91%)
Sigi Burger 7/8 (87%)
TOTAL 30/35 (85%)
Player of the Match: Emma Dovey (Thunder)
Match Report – Thunder v Pulse
By Eve Cobbett
Manchester Thunder dominated this game for the full 48 minutes, even with multiple changes in personnel during the game. In complete contrast to their performance last week, all 7 players came out firing, hitting a gear that eluded them in the first round. Kerry Almond in particular stamped her authority on the game from the get-go, putting enormous pressure on Sigi Burger and forcing multiple balls off the backline in the first 12 minutes. In particular, Almond’s pressure from behind meant that Burger struggled to pull in the ball, allowing Thunder’s defence to capitalise on multiple ball handling errors. This pressure reaped reward, with Thunder’s defence picking up a massive 11 deflections and 5 interceptions between them.
Thunder’s shooting end further rewarded the defence for their hard work, converting from their turnovers, with Joyce Mvula shooting at a perfect 100% and Ellie Cardwell at 87%. Halimat Adio and Funmi Fadoju must also be commended, despite their team taking the loss. Both defenders were clear leaders for Pulse in this match, working tirelessly at the back and getting vitally important turnovers that Pulse desperately needed. Adio ended the game on 10 deflections, whilst Fadoji picked up 3 interceptions and 2 deflections in the 2nd half.
For Thunder, everything worked today. Their defence was textbook perfect from the 1st quarter, with both Amy Carter and Rebekah Airey getting early interceptions by moving their feet to come round the body for clean tips. In the midcourt Laura Malcolm once again had a great game, using the pockets to draw Pulse’s defenders out, allowing an easy ball over the top to Mvula.
The real difference for Thunder this week, however, was that each player knew what they needed to do and executed it perfectly. This was most obvious in Cardwell’s performance. Whereas last week Thunder’s shooting end was hesitant, often ending up in each other’s space, this week when the pass over to Mvula wasn’t on Cardwell took control out the front, playing herself in to the circle. Thunder were unrelenting in this match and despite being up by 20 goals at half-time they refused to sit back and cruise, instead pushing on and punishing Pulse for their mistakes.
For Pulse, their strengths were their defensive ends and substitutes. Fadoju, Ashleigh Dekker, Adean Thomas, Olivia Tchine and Ellie Rattu were all brought on to the court during the game, bringing with them energy and intensity. Although it didn’t always work out for them, Pulse’s substitutes brought a purpose onto court, understanding the urgent need to get their side moving. Fadoju in particular deserves praise for the way she attacked the ball, taking charge in defence and kickstarting a second half which saw better play from Pulse.
The question has to be asked, therefore, why Sam Bird is so reluctant to start players like Fadoju when they are performing consistently each week when brought onto court? In the 2nd half, once Fadoju had entered the game, Zara Everitt went from 0 deflections and 1 intercept to 2 deflections and 1 intercept. Likewise, in the 2nd half of the game Adio went from 2 deflections to a ginormous 8. Although less experienced than Keable, the stats would suggest that Fadoju brings extra grit and unity to Pulse’s defensive end and should arguably be pushing to be their starting GD.
What needs improvement?
Pulse must develop the connections in their attacking end, and quickly. There seems to be a real lack of understanding between Sigi Burger, Lefebre Rademan and Michelle Drayne. In all of Pulse’s matches so far there has been a huge amount of ball thrown off the backline when they should have been for Burger. Whether Burger has been unable to pull in the feeds to her, or they were forced into the circle due to a lack of options, Pulse are struggling to get to goal. They do not seem to have found attacking combinations that work for them yet and it is losing them games.
That being said, Kira Rothwell stood out again in this game, the positive to be taken from a poor attacking performance for Pulse. Throughout the 48 minutes Rothwell could be seen to take charge of Pulse’s attacking end, playing herself into the circle and running hard for some lovely baseline drives. The highlight of this game for Pulse was Rothwell using the post to score off a backline at the end of quarter 2. With this play Rothwell demonstrated that she is a smart goaler who is not afraid to take charge. Shooting at 91%, Rothwell played similarly to Cardwell tonight, playing herself into the circle with quick passes out to her centre court. If Pulse can find the over ball to Burger like Thunder are finding with Mvula, they will quickly see an improvement in their shooting volume.
Where was it won?
Thunder won this game by coming out strong and fast from the first whistle. They did not allow Pulse to come into the game, stifling Pulse’s attacking players by keeping their structures in defence. In attack there was nothing flashy, just four different Thunder goalers who knew what their job was and got it done. This was Thunder at their best, well drilled, physical and ruthless.
Where was it lost?
For Pulse, it was lost in the attacking end. Whilst they struggled to find any connections in attack, the whole team seemed to struggle with the pressure Thunder applied. The London team looked frustrated tonight and that meant they lacked any kind of fluidity in their play. In her post-match interview Sam Bird suggested that her players had ‘struggled with the physicality’, clarifying that it ‘wasn’t dirty play, just strong play’. That, combined with lots of whistle from the umpires against the Pulse players, may go some way to explaining their frustration.
When was it won or lost?
Unfortunately for Pulse, it was undoubtedly lost by the end of the 1st quarter. Thunder dominated the first 12 minutes, building confidence, and with an 11 goal difference by the end of the 1st quarter it looked unlikely Pulse were going to bring it back. Whilst 11 goals isn’t insurmountable, Thunder’s confidence combined with Pulse’s frustration meant that it looked unlikely Pulse could mount a comeback.
How did she do that?
Despite the loss, the moment of the game has to be handed to Pulse. With a minute on the clock at the end of Q3 Adean Thomas had clearly had enough of working the ball to the circle edge, opting instead for a huge pass (we’re talking the ball had snow on it) to Tchine from virtually half-way down the court. The pinpoint pass and Tchine’s ability to pull the ball in and shoot under pressure from the clock shows the promise of this Pulse side.
Thunder: GS Mvula, GA Cardwell, WA Malcolm, C Carter, WD Airey, GD Dovey, GK Almond
Pulse: GS Burger, GA Rothwell, WA Rademan, C Drayne, WD Everitt, GD Keeble, GK Adio
Umpires: Sarah Drake and Julie Wilks
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING 60 def SARACENS MAVERICKS 35
Mary Cholhok 40/42 (95%)
Ella Clark 12/17 (71%0
Suzie Liverseige 6/7 (86%)
Lucy Parize 2/5 (40%)
TOTAL 60/71 (85%)
Gains 12 (Harvey 6)
Britney Pringle-Clarke 22/25 (88%)
Kadeen Corbin 7/8 (85%)
Chloe Essam 6/9 (67%)
TOTAL 35/42 (83%)
Gains 14 (Quashie 7)
Player of the Match: Nat Panagarry (Lightning)
Match Report Lightning v Mavericks
By Bethany Lord
After Lightning’s emotional one goal win over Wasps in the Midlands derby last week, the netball world was watching to see how they would come out in this next match, particularly given their tough start in the Super League fixtures – it doesn’t get much tougher than Bath, Wasps and Mavericks in the first three rounds. Well, they came out firing with something to prove, really backed up their previous performances and showed the Vitality Netball Super League what they’re made of. Whilst the score line wasn’t as close as most of us expected it to be, with Lightning winning 60-35, it was exciting to watch their defensive pressure and get a glimpse of what they’re capable of. Lightning have shown that they’re not here to mess around. They’re coming for this year’s title.
Right from the first centre pass, this was Lightning’s game. They didn’t lose a quarter and they never even looked like they were in any doubt of winning. With a masterclass on how to apply full court defensive pressure, and every one of their 12 players taking court, doing their role and doing it well, they dominated from that first whistle.
Lightning’s full court defensive pressure won them the game, and was pretty much flawless – every player did their role, and even when some of their stars were taken off for a rest in the fourth quarter, the pressure and Lightning’s momentum never wavered. The depth of their squad was impressive, and the ability of every player to come on and make an impact – this bodes very well for the rest of their season.
It’s fair to say that not a lot really worked for the Mavericks in this match, with Coach Kat Ratnapala saying as much in her post-match interview. It was a downhill slope from the beginning, and they really struggled with their connections on court. However, a combination which did work for them was the pairing of Britney Pringle-Clarke and Chloe Essam. Mavericks struggled in goals in the first quarter. Whilst Kadeen Corbin was shooting quite well at 87.5%, she wasn’t working very well with Essam. In the second quarter, Corbin was moved into goal attack and Pringle-Clarke brought on at goal shooter, presumably to try and get some more movement in that attacking third and provide a stronger option at post. But again, the shooters just weren’t moving well together, as Corbin wasn’t pairing with her other shooter and working as a unit. When the change was made halfway through the second quarter to bring Essam back on into goal attack and take Corbin off, suddenly the goal circle opened up a bit more. Mavericks still struggled to get it that deep down the court, because the centre court often weren’t looking at their shooters to see what options they were providing, instead choosing to work it around amongst themselves, but when they did get it into that circle, they converted almost every time. Mavericks continued struggle with Lightning’s defence, was more of an attacking third/centre court problem than a goal circle problem.
What needs improvement?
After a clinical performance like this, it’s hard to say there’s much that needs improvement on Lightning’s behalf. However, as much as she often dominates that shooting circle, Lightning still haven’t quite got the hold of feeding Cholhok. She has such long arms, a great reach, and is really strong when pulling that ball out of the air, and Lightning relies on this a lot instead of feeding her the perfect ball. This can lead to unnecessary fumbles and lost balls. If they can really nail that feed, they’ll be almost unstoppable in that shooting circle, particularly when they have such strong options in the goal attack position to back up Cholhok at goal shooter.
For Mavericks, there’s a lot that needs improving after this game, but something that stood out as key was a lack of defensive pressure. Lightning ran a clinic on what full court defensive pressure should look like, and whilst Mavericks struggled with this in attack, they also struggled to retaliate defensively. At times, they looked like a bunch of individuals, instead of a team, and this really hurt them in the circle. With shooters of Ella Clarke and Mary Cholhok’s height, that defensive pressure needs to be happening all the way down the court and especially on the pass into the circle. Once the ball gets in there, there’s not a lot that can be done when you have such a height disadvantage. Quashie, Collard and Zaranyika did what they could in the circle to stop Lightning’s shooters, but their teammates really left them hanging out to dry by not providing that defensive pressure before the ball reached the circle.
Where was it won?
The game was undoubtedly won through that centre court. Don’t get me wrong – Lightning’s circles on both ends were on fire, with both Cholhok and Harvey making it into my Player of the Match selections, but it was the work of all the Lightning players down the court that allowed the circles to thrive. Lightning came out this match to teach the Super League a lesson on clinical full court defence, and Mavericks simply couldn’t handle it when it came to the crunch.
Where was it lost?
The centre court is also where it was lost for Mavericks. Lightning forced them wide and Mavericks were forced to play laterally along that attacking third line. They just didn’t have those connections down the court – when they got it into their goal circle, they generally scored, but they were struggling to even get it that deep. More movement was needed all the way down the court – there were a lot of players hanging around and taking up space, instead of offering a strong drive or clearing. On a lot of occasions, players only had one option, meaning they had to force the pass – their teammates needed to attack the ball and use the middle channel, instead of simply reacting to Lightning’s defence by allowing themselves to be forced wide.
When was it won or lost?
Lightning did the hard work early on to set up their systems, give themselves that nine goal cushion at half time and really set the tone and momentum of the match, but it was in the third quarter when we saw this early work come into fruition. With an outstanding 19 goal third quarter, they blew the margin out to 16 goals at three quarter time. Up until this point, Mavericks were still close enough on the scoreboard, and could have turned it around in the second half if they had stepped up to the plate. But with Lightning blowing that lead out, they put the result of the game beyond question.
How did she do that?
There wasn’t one ‘how did she do that’ moment for me this match, but rather, a ‘how does she do that’ player, and that has to be Mary Cholhok with her go-go-gadget arms. I’ve already mentioned that I don’t think Lightning has quite nailed the feed to her yet, but regardless of that, she gets almost every pass, regardless of where it is put, and she snatches some balls out of the air that shouldn’t be humanly impossible for anyone to take. And of course, she converts almost every one into a goal, finishing this game with 40 goals and 95% accuracy. With such a long reach and strong grab, I’m constantly questioning how she does it!
Lightning: GS Cholhok, GA Liverseidge, WA Joseph, C Panagarry, WD Cobden, GD May, GK Harvey
Mavericks: GS K. Corbin, GA Essam, WA Lees, C S. Corbin, WD Ecuyer-Dale, GD Collard, GK Quashie
Umpires: Gary Burgess and Louise Travis
SURREY STORM 56 def CELTIC DRAGONS 40
Amy Clinton 25/30 (83%)
Rebekah Robinson 14/20 (70%)
Annika Lee-Jones 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 40/51 (78%)
Gains 6 (Lee-Jones 2)
Karyn Bailey 36/39 (92%)
Frankie Wells 18/21 (86%)
Sophie Kelly 2/2 (100%)
TOTAL 56/62 (90%)
Gains 12 (Priest 4)
Player of the Match: Karyn Bailey (Storm)
TEAM BATH 44 def WASPS 39
Rachel Dunn 25/27 (93%)
Katie Harris 8/10 (80%)
Gezelle Allison 6/6 (100%)
TOTAL 39/43 (91%)
Kim Borger 30/31 (97%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 14/14 (100%)
TOTAL 44/45 (98%)
Player of the Match: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Bath)
Match Report – Wasps v Bath
By Iona St Joseph
This match up looked set to be one of the must-watch games of Round Three and we weren’t disappointed! The excitement levels were high before the first centre pass even happened with the announcement that everyone’s favourite netball doctor, Layla Guscoth, was back and on the bench for team Bath.
Much was made in the pre-game discussions about Bath’s international talent and they were clinical straight out of the blocks.
Bath dominated for the majority of this game. Their patience across the court was fantastic, especially feeding their shooting circle; the decisions to move the ball around as needed, waiting for the space to open up, were on point. Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis were brilliant in attack, both moving around the shooting circle with strength and confidence.
Wasps took a while to warm up, and there were changes in the second and third quarters, trying to find those combinations that would punch through. The fourth quarter saw them step up their game; winning 13 – 8, but it wasn’t enough to bring it back.
The only thing that’s going to stop me going on about Bath’s shooting end, is Bath’s defensive end. This was Eboni Usoro-Brown’s first start of the season and she rewarded her coach with a fantastic performance at goalkeeper. Tash Pavelin started at goal defence and did a brilliant job of shutting down Wasps’ Katie Harris. The second half saw the return of Layla Guscoth into GD, who looked like she hadn’t been away from the game, picking up a tip within two minutes of coming on to court.
Talking of defence, there were moments that shone through from Wasps too. Three deflections from Josie Huckle, and intercepts from Fran Williams and Amy Flanagan provided opportunities for the Wasps attack to capitalise on.
What needs improvement?
Wasps really struggled to penetrate the Bath defence and get the ball into their shooters. There were times during the match where you could feel the frustration creeping into their game. Whether it was with the umpiring or with themselves, there were certainly some decisions that came from irritation, like a real hail Mary pass to Dunn that just headed straight over the back line.
Wasps made a few changes during the second quarter that paid off towards the end of the half, but as captain Sophia Candappa said at half time, the side really needed to be more clinical if they wanted to turn the game around.
Where was it won?
Team Bath were just too well drilled for Wasps in the first half. Their combinations through court and the patience they showed getting the ball into their shooters really was magical to watch at some points. The hassling from Guthrie, Allison and Shaw in the mid court caused real headaches for Wasps, and Guscoth was unrelenting in defence in the second half. Bath’s deflections outnumbered Wasps’ 17 to 6 too, and they certainly managed to make the most of those turnovers. It wasn’t 48 minutes of total perfection from Bath by any means, but they certainly were the standout side in this game.
Where was it lost?
Although Wasps showed moments of excellence, they didn’t have any answers for Bath’s relentless attack. There were positive elements though; they brought it back in the fourth quarter to make the losing margin just five goals, having been down by 10 or more throughout most of the game.
Harris struggled in goal attack with the defensive force of Pavelin and Usoro-Brown in the first quarter, and Rachel Dunn only put up an average of five goals in the first three quarters, which gives you an idea of how consistent Bath were on defence.
How did she do that?
I found myself audibly gasping at some of Kim Borger’s moves in the shooting circle. Her and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis have really cemented that attacking partnership. Borger’s drives out of the circle opened up the base line nicely, and Drakeford-Lewis’s athleticism meant that the circle feeders had plenty of opportunity to get the ball into the circle. It wasn’t just their movement either; their shooting stats were the stuff coaches’ dreams are made of with Borger shooting 30/31 and Drakeford-Lewis shooting 14/14 at 100%.
Wasps: GS Dunn, GA Harris, WA Candappa, C Christian, WD Flanagan, GD Williams, GK Huckle
Bath: GS Borger, GA Drakeford-Lewis, WA R. Shaw, C Guthrie, WD Allison, GD Pavelin, GK Usoro-Brown
Umpires: Farra Jaura and Rachel Radford
(after Round 3)
BATH . 3 . 9pts . +41
THUNDER . 2 . 6pts . +44
RHINOS . 3 . 6pts . +32
LIGHTNING . 3 . 6pts . +22
SIRENS . 3 . 6pts . +6
STORM . 4 . 6pts . -2
MAVERICKS . 3 . 6pts . -7
WASPS . 3 . 3pts . +13
STARS . 2 . 0pts . -25
PULSE . 2 . 0pts . -29
DRAGONS . 4 . 0pts . -95
Lynsey Gallagher, Strathclyde Sirens – knee injury early in Q1 v Dragons and did not return to court
Amy Clinton, Celtic Dragons – head injury in Q4 and did not return to court
Josie Huckle, Wasps – ankle injury in Q3 and did not return to court
Emma Love of Strathclyde Sirens – ruptured ACL and is out for the season
Jo Tripp unavailable for Mavericks due to a sustained head injury
Jodie Gibson unavailable for Mavericks due to the Covid-19 return to play protocol
Ine-Marie Venter unavailable for Mavericks due to the Covid-19 return to play protocol
Danielle McFarlane unavailable for Mavericks due to injury
Donnell Wallam, Leeds Rhinos – fractured radius bone and will be out for several weeks
Tuaine Keenan, Leeds Rhinos – ankle/calf injury will be out for a number of weeks
Fi Toner, Leeds Rhinos – Achilles injury out for a number of weeks
Emma Magee, Surrey Storm – ankle injury
Sunday 28th February
12 noon Severn Stars v Manchester Thunder
2pm Strathclyde Sirens v London Pulse
4pm Wasps v Surrey Storm
6pm Leeds Rhinos v Loughborough Lightning
Monday 1st March
5.15 Celtic Dragons v Saracens Mavericks
7.15 Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars