Contributors – Zara Collings, Eve Cobbett, Iona St Joseph, Rona Hunnisett and Ian Harkin
Netball’s back in the Capital…
By Zara Collings
After eleven rounds in Wakefield, the Vitality Netball SuperLeague kicked off the second part of the season in London’s infamous Copperbox Arena. The Copperbox, also dubbed the home of England Netball, gave us the same bright lights, incredible graphics and professional feel that we saw in Wakefield and it is a true testament to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes from everyone involved with the league. Six matches made up Round 12, with Team Bath, Strathclyde Sirens, Loughborough Lightning, Wasps, Leeds Rhinos and London Pulse all coming away from the weekend with three vital championship points.
Celtic Dragons gave perhaps the most surprising performance of the round… for the first half at least! Things appeared to have finally fallen into place for Tania Hoffman’s charges, who went into the half time break one up on ladder leaders Team Bath. Some incredible defensive pressure from the back line of Annika Lee-Jones, Abbie Tyrrell and Clare Jones generated plenty of turnovers and both teams had chances to pull ahead at various points. However, as we have seen throughout the season, Dragon’s struggled to maintain this pressure for the full 48 minutes and Bath steamrolled through the final two quarters to take the win, 51-34. Whilst a win over Team Bath could have been considered one of the upsets of the season, this would not have been one of Tania’s target games in this latter half of the season. With Dragon’s lining up to face Surrey Storm in Round 13, the girls in green will be viewing that match-up as key to their season.
As I outlined in Netball Scoop’s Round 10/11 Scoreboard, my match up for the round was Leeds Rhinos against Saracen’s Mavericks and it did not disappoint! Rhinos were looking to right the wrongs of their previous encounter and they certainly did it in style. A dominant performance across the court, from Goal Keeper Tuaine Keenan’s six intercepts and four deflections, to Goal Shooter Donnell Wallam’s 54 goals, Rhinos ground down Mavericks in a thrilling encounter. With players such as Emily Hollingworth continuing to claim a starting seven position on court, even with Co-Captain Fi Toner’s return from injury and the likes of Paige Kindred and Sienna Rushton sitting on the bench, all three of whom have been instrumental in securing victories in their teammates absences, Rhinos have the depth on their bench to push for a top four spot come the end of the season.
Whilst Mavericks were outclassed by Rhinos on this occasion, a special mention must go to Kadeen Corbin, who stood up for her team when they needed her, swapping one end of the court for another and donning the Goal Keeper bib. Not only was this something that many of us have not seen for years (if at all!), but Corbin matched up against Wallam, who currently sits atop the shot conversion chart with an incredible 211 goals at 94.31%. Corbin brought tenacity and grit, causing Wallam a few problems early on, getting an intercept and deflection to her name.
It was a tale of two matches for Wasps this weekend, losing by ten to Loughborough Lightning, before bouncing back a day later to secure a dominant victory over Severn Stars, 53-27. Through a combination of poor decision making from Wasps and strong defensive pressure from Lightning, Wasps were 1-6 down within minutes of the first quarter. With the happy news that Captain Sophia Candappa will be sitting out the remainder of the season after announcing her pregnancy, Wasps will be relying on the experience of Rachel Dunn, Iona Christian and Katie Harris to stabilise the attacking end as they look to slot young gun Leah Goss into the Wing Attack position. They do have depth and the ability to mix things around in their midcourt, with Amy Flanagan, Ella-Powell Davies and Lily-May Catling also in the midcourt mix, albeit towards the defensive end, but finding a new attacking rhythm is vital for them to secure a finals spot.
It must also be noted, that after both Sky pundits and us Netball Scoop writers have continuously applauded the work of the defensive ends across the league so far this season, Round 12 gave us five players of the match wearing the Goal Shooter bib. Kim Borger, Emma Barrie, Mary Cholhok, Donnell Wallam and Sigi Burger were all awarded the accolade this week, an indication that teams used the bye weekend to really work on their attacking structures and do some in depth analysis of the league’s defensive units. With ‘physicality’ being a term banded around in post-match interviews and analysis, our shooting sensations appear to be working out how to withstand this physical and mental pressure.
Another bumper weekend of double-header netball treats us to many key match-ups at both ends of the table. Celtic Dragon’s will be determined to secure their first win of the season against ninth placed Surrey Storm, who were left searching for answers after a disjointed performance saw another narrow loss to London Pulse this week. Saracens Mavericks will face another top four contender in Loughborough Lightning and require a strong win to maintain their current fifth place position, with both Rhinos and Sirens hot on their heels. A big weekend awaits Team Bath, who take on two of their top four competitors, Wasps and Manchester Thunder, who will be eager to get on court after nearly three weeks break. My match to watch, however, will see Strathclyde Sirens take on Leeds Rhinos on Sunday 2nd May at 2pm. Both teams are riding high off strong wins in Round 12 and both will be desperate to prove they are seriously challenging a finals place. Only one point separates the two teams on the ladder, with Rhinos claiming the victory the last time they met by six. Key to either team’s success will be the battle between Towera Vinkhumbo and Donnell Wallam, with the league’s most disruptive defender taking on the league’s most accurate shooter.
Stats Leaders of the Week
Most Goals: 54 Donnell Wallam (Rhinos v Mavericks)
Most Gains: 9 Alima Priest (Storm v Pulse)
Most Offensive Rebounds: 5 Mary Cholhok (Lightning v Wasps)
Most Defensive Rebounds: 3 Annika Lee-Jones (Dragons v Bath)
Most Intercepts: 5 Alima Priest (Storm v Pulse) and Tuaine Keenan (Rhinos v Mavericks)
TEAM BATH NETBALL 51 def CELTIC DRAGONS 34
Amy Clinton 23/27 (85%)
Rebekah Robinson 11/15 (73%)
TOTAL 34/42 (81%)
Gains 9 (Lee-Jones 5)
Kim Borger 33/36 (92%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 14/17 (82%)
Betsy Creak 4/8 (50%)
TOTAL 51/61 (84%)
Gains 20 (Guscoth 6)
Player of the Match: Kim Borger (Bath)
STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 45 def SEVERN STARS 37
Georgia Rowe 27/29 (93%)
Paige Reed 10/13 (77%)
TOTAL 37/42 (88%)
Gains 12 (Bolakoro 4)
Emma Barrie 34/38 (89%)
Niamh McCall 11/17 (65%)
TOTAL 45/55 (82%)
Gains 11 (Vinkhumbo 4)
Player of the Match: Emma Barrie (Sirens)
LEEDS RHINOS 63 def SARACENS MAVERICKS 48
Ine-Mari Venter 36/37 (97%)
Chloe Essam 10/12 (83%)
Kadeen Corbin 2/2 (100%)
TOTAL 48/51 (96%)
Gains 6 (Trip 3)
Donnell Wallam 54/55 (98%)
Rhea Dixon 9/14 (64%)
TOTAL 63/69 (91%)
Gains 14 (Keenan, Oyesola 5)
Player of the Match: Donnell Wallam (Rhinos)
Match Report – Mavericks v Rhinos
By Eve Cobbett
Game 3 of Round 12 saw fifth placed Saracens Mavericks take on sixth placed Leeds Rhinos. There was a lot at stake for both teams going into this match, each seeking to find themselves in the top 4 come the end of Round 20. The first meeting between these two sides was a close one, with Mavericks sneaking the win by only 4 goals in a game that left 3 of Rhinos starting 7 injured. However, fast forward 10 rounds and the rematch couldn’t have been a more different story. Rhinos dominated this game and put out arguably their best performance of the season, comfortably beating Mavericks by 15 goals.
In short, Rhinos players dominated in every area of the court in this match. Not only did Donnell Wallam shoot at 98% accuracy, she put up a huge 54 goals in 48 minutes. More importantly Wallam matched flair with skill, nailing the basics and proving that at her best, she is unstoppable. Although it is a delight to see her playing in VNSL, you have to ask how long it will be until an SSN side lures her back home with a permanent contract. Brie Grierson also impressed in this game, carving up Mavericks’ defence and oozing confidence on the feeds.
Rhinos were firing in the defensive end too, with Emily Hollingworth demonstrating to Dan Ryan why she deserves to start at Wing Defence even with Fi Toner back in action. Her quiet determination and relentless tracking of Georgia Lees ensured Mavericks couldn’t find any flow in their attacking end. And finally Tuaine Keenan had a stand out performance, picking up a ginormous 5 interceptions and 4 deflections against one of the league’s best, Ine-Marie Venter.
Having said this, Venter matched Wallam for accuracy, shooting at an impressive 97%. Although she couldn’t match the Rhinos’ shooter for volume, she was arguably the player that kept Mavericks in this game in the first and second quarter, stepping up to take control of the shooting end and shouldering much of the load in the first half. Chloe Essam also dominated when she was brought on at Goal Attack. Her sharp drives into the circle and confidence to put up mid and long-range shots helped to take the pressure off Venter.
In this match, just about everything worked for Rhinos. Their defence picked up a tonne of ball and most importantly their midcourt treasured that extra possession. In previous games we have often seen Rhinos suffer from a rush of blood to the head after turning over ball, often wasting the possession. However, in this game Grierson was as patient and calm as she was creative, with Jade Clarke an ever-reliable presence in at centre, both players delivering the ball safely to Rhea Dixon and Wallam. Rhinos also learned from the mistakes they made in their Round 11 match against Thunder, with Dixon putting up more shots. This meant that Dixon was equally as deadly as Wallam, making it hard for the Mavericks defenders to know who to focus on. This allowed Wallam to hold strong without the worry of committing attacking contacts when sandwiched between two defenders, something she was guilty of in the game against Thunder. Dan Ryan claimed in his post-match interview that his players now ‘deeply believe they are good enough’. This was clear in this game, with Rhinos looking like a side who were well aware this game was theirs to win.
What needs improvement?
Of course, there are always improvements to be made. Half-way through quarter 1 we got a glimpse of just how good this Rhinos side could be. At 6 minutes 30, Dixon launched herself into the goal circle and fired off a pass, before landing, to Wallam. Although Wallam wasn’t ready for the pass this time and the ball ended up going out of play, it was a clear indication that this Rhinos shooting end have the potential to be even more lethal if they can improve their shooter-to-shooter connections.
Mavericks, on the other hand, must improve their feeds into the circle, particularly to Venter. Having shot 36/37 at 97%, and matching Wallam for volume in the first quarter it is clear that Venter is a quality shooter – when she gets the service. If Mavericks want to get the most out of their import, and help her reach her potential, they have to improve their patience and give more accurate feeds into the circle. It is a credit to the work that Clarke and Hollingworth were doing outside the circle that it was so hard for Sasha Corbin and Lees to feed Venter effectively. However, too many of the balls were far too short and far too easy for Keenan to intercept. This issue was intensified by Venter’s habit to run away from the ball, as opposed to coming towards. Venter beats Keenan for height and, had she held strong, those high balls over the top might have worked. However, Venter’s habit to back away towards the baseline, coupled with Corbin and Lee’s limited visibility, meant that the feeds were often too short which gifted interceptions and tips to Keenan.
Where was it won?
Rhinos won this game due to their performance at either end of the court. Whilst Wallam was sinking over a shot a minute, Keenan and Oyesola were picking up plenty of ball. This meant that whilst one end was turning over possession, the other end was converting that extra possession into goals.
Where was it lost?
Again, Mavericks lost this game at either end of the court. Mavericks simply had no answers to the question of how do you stop Donnell Wallam. Although Kadeen Corbin should be admired for the shift she put in when thrown into Goal Keeper, it was a sign that Mavericks were lacking depth on their bench with Razia Quashie injured and neither Jo Tripp nor Jodie Gibson able to match up to the Australian import. Up the other end the poor ball placement and poor positioning from Venter sealed Mavericks fate.
When was it lost?
Although the score didn’t yet reflect it, Mavericks lost this game in the first quarter. Whilst they were only 4 behind Rhinos at the end of the first 12 minutes, Mavericks had allowed Rhinos to gain confidence early and they couldn’t be stopped after that. Even when Mavericks seemed to find their flow in the 2nd quarter, Rhinos weathered the (short) storm and simply couldn’t be put off their mission to win this game convincingly.
How did she do that?
We’ve come to know Rhinos as a team that plays with plenty of flair and this game was no different. So much so that this game provided two ‘how did she do that?’ moments.
With 2 minutes 24 seconds left on the clock in quarter 1 Mavericks took their centre pass, only for Hollingworth to get a tip as she fell out of court. The tip fell to Grierson who managed to keep it in play whilst stopping herself from going offside at the third line, the ball eventually falling to Oyesola and ending in a Rhinos goal. This was just one example of a Rhinos side who, as Dan Ryan claimed post-game, ‘play so well for each other’.
The other ‘how did she do that?’ moment of course goes to Wallam who, upon losing the ball to Jo Tripp around the 8-minute mark got straight on to defence and produced perhaps the best rejection the VNSL has ever seen. In true Wallam style she quickly converted the turnover into a goal, and in less than a minute cemented her status as arguably the coolest player to take to a VNSL court.
Mavericks: GS K. Corbin, GA Venter, WA Lees, C S. Corbin, WD Marshall, GD Gibson, GK Tripp
Rhinos: GS Wallam, GA Dixon, WA Grierson, C Clarke, WD Hollingworth, GD Oyesola, GK Keenan
Umpires: Gary Burgess and Alison Harrison
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING 52 def WASPS 42
Rachel Dunn 29/29 (100%)
Katie Harris 12/15 (80%)
Gezelle Allison 1/3 (33%)
TOTAL 42/47 (89%)
Gains 7 (Flanagan 3)
Mary Cholhok 43/49 (88%)
Suzie Liverseidge 7/8 (88%)
Ella Clark 2/4 (50%)
TOTAL 52/61 (85%)
Gains 7 (Cobden 3)
Player of the Match: Mary Cholhok (Lightning)
Match Report – Wasps v Lightning
By Iona St Joseph
This was the second match up between these two sides in the 2021 season, Lightning taking the spoils in rounds one and two by just one goal. This looked set to be a hotly contested matchup, but with Wasps announcing that they would be without Sophia Candappa, who is expecting her second child, it was questioned whether they could sustain the momentum in attack.
After the last time these two teams met, fans might have been expecting a close game, but Lightning meant business right from the word go. They turned over Wasps first centre pass, and continued pressure from Alice Harvey in Goal Keeper really put doubt in the minds of the Wasps feeders. Candappa’s absence was noticeable for Wasps as they struggled to get the ball to circle edge and into the shooters.
Lightning was clinical throughout the court. Nat Panagarry was as reliable as ever in Centre, and the relationship between Mary Cholhok and Susie Liverseidge continues to develop into a formidable combination. Beth Cobden continues to cause headaches for Wing Attacks throughout the league, helping to shut down that second phase from Wasps, and Hannah Joseph put in a brilliant performance at Wing Attack before her game was cut short by what is hopefully not a serious injury in the third quarter.
There were some fantastic connections on court from Lightning. Liverseidge offered some fantastic movement in a playmaker Goal Attack role, before moving across to Wing Attack in the fourth quarter, and Panagarry was a real engine in the midcourt. In defence, Alice Harvey put in a fantastic performance at Goal Keeper against the formidable Rachel Dunn, and Jas Odeogberin had a great game in Goal Defence after coming on to replace Sam May, shutting down Wasps Goal Attack Katie Harris.
Wasps improved in the second and third quarters, finding the connections to goal much more easily and playing with renewed confidence. Amy Flanagan moved into Centre from Wing Defence in the third quarter, putting more pressure on Natalie Panagarry and moving the ball more smoothly into attack, picking up a couple of intercepts in quick succession.
What needs improvement?
Wasps will have to adapt to their new connections in attack and work out how to do it quickly, as they struggled to get the ball from the centre third into the shooters. They have some brilliant connections on court, and when it’s their day, with Rachel Dunn in the circle, they can be hard to beat, but they often seem to only have a ‘Plan A’ which was where they struggled against Lightning. The changes that came in the third quarter did help to open up the court, but Lightning responded by making their own changes in attack, bringing on Ella Clark to Goal Attack and moving Liverseidge across to Wing Attack, going on to win the game by 10 goals. With 13 unforced errors across the match, there were certainly times where Wasps made it harder for themselves than it needed to be.
Where was it won?
Lightning were clinical in their performance, and a strong first half meant that they started off on the front foot, going into the quarter break leading by nine goals. Players from the Loughborough side stepped up across the court, and their connections seem to be continuing to grow as the season goes on. Despite a better performance from Wasps in the second, Lightning stayed composed throughout the second and third quarters, before a strong final quarter secured them the win.
Where was it lost?
It’s undoubtedly difficult to slot into a team half way through the season, but Wasps struggled in the attacking end without Candappa. Iona Christian moved into the Wing Attack role in the third quarter, which opened up the route to circle edge, but again, it wasn’t enough to overtake Lightning’s lead. It will be interesting to see what their line-up looks like going forward, and who will become that go-to Wing Attack for Wasps for the rest of the season.
When was it won or lost?
It didn’t seem easy for Wasps to get the ball into their shooting circle in the first quarter due to those new connections and the pressure from the Lightning defence. There were passages of good play, but despite winning the second quarter by five goals it wasn’t enough to end Lightning’s run of form.
How did she do that?
It was certainly an attackers game, and there were two notable shooting performances from each end of the court. Mary Cholhok continues her domination of the league’s shooting stats, scoring 43 of Lightning’s 52 goals; with 482 goals scored this season so far, she doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Rachel Dunn was reliable as ever for Wasps, shooting at 100%.
This game really showcases Lightning’s intent to stay in that top four, and will have undoubtedly given them confidence going into their next game against Severn Stars in Round 15 on the 9th of May.
Wasps: GS Dunn, GA Harris, WA Goss, C Christian, WD Flanagan, GD Williams, GK Huckle
Lightning: GS Cholhok, GA Liverseidge, WA Joseph, C Panagarry, WD Cobden, GD May, GK Harvey
WASPS 53 def SEVERN STARS 27
Rachel Dunn 40/41 (98%)
Gazelle Allison 7/8 (88%)
Katie Harris 6/7 (86%)
TOTAL 53/56 (95%)
Gains 12 (Huckle 5)
Paige Reed 15/20 (75%)
Issy Eaton 8/8 (100%)
Georgia Rowe 4/7 (57%)
TOTAL 27/35 (77%)
Player of the Match: Josie Huckle (Wasps)
LONDON PULSE 43 def SURREY STORM 41
Sigi Burger 28/30 (93%)
Lefebre Rademan 15/19 (79%)
TOTAL 43/49 (88%)
Gains 8 (Adio, Keable 2)
Karyn Bailey 33/36 (92%)
Emma Magee 8/9 (89%)
TOTAL 41/45 (91%)
Gains 12 (Priest 9)
Player of the Match: Sigi Burger (Pulse)
Match Report – Storm v Pulse
By Rona Hunnisett
The London derby returned to the capital in Round 12 and did not disappoint; in the first meeting in 2021 between these two familiar foes, Storm emerged victorious by only two goals, but could the fast improving young Pulse side turn the tables? The game was fast but scrappy, with neither team able to take a commanding lead, but in a game of the narrowest of margins, it was Pulse who held their nerve to take a hard-won, confidence-boosting 43-41 win.
This was a game of two shooting circles, with both GS’s posting excellent stats (Burger 28/30, Bailey 33/36) but it was the GA’s who made the difference. While Magee impressed on her return to court for the first time since her injury in round one, it was Rademan who really stepped up, directing play in the Pulse circle and injecting pace and energy in the closing stages to get her side over the line.
When both teams took the direct route to goal, the result was an impressive display of fast, attacking netball. Bailey’s draw to the top of the Storm circle, in particular, cleared space for Magee at the post, while at the other end of the court Rattu and Rothwell started with confidence, releasing their shooters into space with first time accuracy.
What needs improvement?
Both sides were guilty of far too many contacts and unforced errors, with warnings and cautions handed out by umpires Louise Travis and Gary Burgess almost incessantly in the second half. Both sides were lucky to end the game with a full complement of players, and will need to tidy up their court work if they are to be competitive as the season continues.
Where was it won?
The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the game, with neither side able to build a convincing lead and hold it. Midway through the final quarter, with the scores level, possession changed hands numerous times, with errors and interceptions switching the impetus from one team and then to another. Finally, a Storm error gave Pulse possession, which Rademan duly converted, and with the London side adding two goals in quick succession, the younger team edged ahead and held their nerve for the win.
Where was it lost?
In a game of such narrow margins, a lack of discipline cost Storm dearly. While both teams were guilty of uncontrolled challenges and needless errors, the Surrey side made mistakes when it counted most, and with Burger and Rademan punishing them with accurate shooting under pressure, Pulse stayed in touch when Storm should have pulled ahead.
When was it won or lost?
A great game for the neutral observer, the result was only certain in the final two minutes of the match, with only a couple of goals separating the teams throughout. Pulse will take heart from the way they stuck to task and remained focused on their structures throughout.
How did she do that?
In the dying moments of the game, Karyn Bailey once again pulled off her signature “pass off the post” move, but for sheer audacity, it is hard to look beyond the exploits of Pulse’s Funmi Fudoju. Almost as soon as she stepped onto court at the start of the second half, she deflected a ball intended for Bailey, and followed it up with a series of eye-catching tips and interceptions. A raw talent, she showed why she is being talked up as a future England star.
Pulse: GS Burger, GA Rademan, WA Rothwell, C Rattu, WD Drane, GD Everitt, GK Adio
Substitutions: 3rd q: WD Fudoju, GD Keable , 4th q: C Decker
Storm: GS Bailey, GA Magee, WA Parsons , C Austin, WD Cooper GD Middleton, GK Priest
Umpires: Gary Burgess and Louise Travis
To hear from the players and coach, post match, tune into the Surrey Storm Podcast.
(after Round 12)
Team . Pld . Pts . G Diff
BATH . 12. 33pts . +170
LIGHTNING . 12 . 30pts . +195
WASPS . 13 . 28pts . +108
THUNDER . 11 . 27pts . +153
MAVERICKS . 12 . 22pts . +17
RHINOS . 12 . 18pts . -13
SIRENS . 12 . 17pts . -17
PULSE . 12. 9pts . -65
STORM . 11 . 6pts . -90
STARS . 13 . 6pts . -170
DRAGONS . 12 . 0pts . -288
Razia Quashie, Saracens Mavericks – ongoing ankle injury and unavailable for selection
Bethan Dyke, Severn Stars – ACL injury and ruled out for the rest of the season
Emma Dovey, Manchester Thunder – injured ankle and out for a number of weeks
Lynsey Gallagher, Strathclyde Sirens – injured knee and hoping to return before the end of the season
Catchup on the latest Vitality Netball Superleague news, and hear from the players and coaches via our friends at The Netball Show.
Friday 30th April
5.15pm – Storm v Dragons
7.15pm – Lightning v Mavericks
Saturday 1st May
2:00pm – Storm v Stars
4:00pm – Pulse v Sirens
6:00pm – Mavericks v Dragons
Sunday 2nd May
2:00pm – Sirens v Rhinos
4:00pm – Pulse v Thunder
6:00pm – Bath v Wasps
Monday 3rd May
5:15pm – Thunder v Bath
7:15pm – Rhinos v Wasps