By |2021-04-07T05:44:07+10:00March 3rd, 2021|Categories: Featured, UK, Uncategorized, VNSL|0 Comments

Contributors: Zara Collings, Iona St Joseph, Bethany Lord and Ian Harkin 


It’s heating up..

By Zara Collings

The fourth round of the Vitality Netball Superleague gave us record breaking wins, some real improvements, tough injury blows and some powerful returns to court. It had it all.

Lightning solidified their position at the top of the table with two strong victories over Leeds Rhinos and Severn Stars, taking them three points clear of the second placed Thunder, who have a game in hand. Continuing to rotate squad members, Lightning have demonstrated the depth of their bench with younger players really stepping up and proving they deserve their spot on court. Round 1 debutante Suzie Liverseidge keeping England Rose Ella Clark on the bench for the first few quarters of their first match and Ugandan She-Crane Mary Cholhok on the bench for some of their second round four games. This versatility in Lightning’s attack will be key moving forward, with coach Sara Bayman able to rotate players to keep them fresh and match up appropriately against different opposition.

Rookie of the Round: Alice Harvey has been one such Lightning youngster who has really stepped up and taken the opportunities handed to her with both hands. Despite only earning her first Superleague contract in 2020, Harvey has been a key cog in the lightning defensive end having started every game at GK so far this season. An England U21, she has continued to impress with her ability to read play and track her circle players. Despite attracting a fair bit of whistle so far this season, she has built a formidable partnership with Sam May and is an incredibly exciting prospect for both Loughborough and England and her potential shone this weekend across both matches.

Thunder continued their strong start to the season with another victory over Severn Stars, again rotating all of their game day 12 on the court, with WA Alicia Scholes making her debut. The real test for Thunder will come in Round five, when they take on Team Bath, whom many have tipped to take Thunder’s current champion’s crown.

It was a particularly momentous round for Strathclyde Sirens, who recorded their third victory in a row, something which the club has never managed to do in their four year history. Slick ball movement and through court pressure carried them to a five goal victory over London Pulse, who are really struggling to get going so far this season, without a win to their name. As I outline in the match report later on, Pulse are yet to find their most dominant shooting combination and this is something they will need to address as they move through the rest of the season if they are looking to put points on the board.

Saracens Mavericks also had a positive round, welcoming back Jodie Gibson to the squad and Ine-Marie Venter made her first appearance in VNSL. Both put out incredibly strong performances considering they haven’t been on court for such extended periods of time and Mavs showed the most fluidity in attack with the Venter/Corbin combination, which is a great sign for them moving forward.

Despite not taking the win, both Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars showed periods of real improvement in their respective games against Dragons and Lightning. Both sides were missing their target goal shooters, with Amy Clinton ruled out of Dragon’s match with concussion and Georgia Rowe unavailable for Stars due to illness, yet both produced some of their best netball of the season so far.  Annika Lee-Jones played her role at GS well and filled in admirably for Clinton. Whilst her shot was clearly a little rusty, she did gather almost all her rebounds and if the Dragon’s midcourt could nail that high and hard feed to her, could certainly be a viable option for them moving forward. The loss of captain and attacking general Liana Leota due to a sustained break in her hand will be huge, but with Georgia Rowe hopefully back in the squad before their next match against Storm, there is plenty to get excited about as they will look to put together these strong passages of play for a full four quarters.

Stats Leaders of the Week

Most Goals: Mary Cholhok 51 (Lightning v Rhinos)

Most Gains: Towera Vinkhumbo 7 (Sirens v Pulse) 

Most Offensive Rebounds: Annika Lee-Jones 6 (Dragons v Mavericks)

Most Defensive Rebounds: Leah Middleton 5 (Storm v Wasps)

Most Intercepts: Towera Vinkhumbo 5 (Sirens v Pulse)

Berri Neil of Manchester Thunder

Berri Neil of Thunder with the ball against Stars. Photo: England Netball



Manchester Thunder
Joyce Mvula 32/33 (97%)
Ellie Cardwell (83%)
Berri Neal 9/9 (100%)
Lois Pearson 4/5 (80%)
TOTAL 60/65 (92%)

Gains 12 (Almond 6)

Severn Stars
Paige Reed 14/18 (78%)
Issy Eaton 9/11 (82%)
Helen Taylor 4/6 (67%)
TOTAL 27/35 (77%)

Gains 10 (Herdman 3, Kelly 3)

Player of the match: Joyce Mvula 

Nicola McCleery of Sirens

Nicola McCleery of Sirens was player of the match against Pulse. Photo: England Netball


Strathclyde Sirens
Emma Barrie 21/23 (91%)
Bethan Goodwin 14/18 (78%)
TOTAL 35/41 (85%)

Gains 9 (Vinkhumbo 7)

London Pulse
Sigi Burger 13/14 (93%)
Olivia Tschine 10/10 (100%)
Lefebre Rademan 4/6 (67%)
Kira Rothwell 3/4 (75%)
TOTAL 30/35 (86%)

Gains 11

Player of the match: Nicola McCleery

Match Report – Sirens v Pulse

By Zara Collings

For the first time since their inception in 2017, Strathclyde Sirens recorded a record third victory in a row over London Pulse, securing them another three points and ensured they finished round four in fifth position. Whilst the final winning margin was only five, Sirens did appear to be the stronger team across all four quarters leaving Pulse still searching for their first win of the season.

Who dominated?

Well, Sam Bird must have read my fellow Netball Scoop reporter Eve’s report of the previous Pulse match as Fumni Fadoju earned her first starting spot of the season against Sirens, keeping co-captain Lindsay Keeble on the bench for the first two quarters. The partnership between Fadoju and Adio continues to build and both play a physical, man-on brand of defence and with the unfamiliar partnership of Goodwin and Barrie still finding its feet, Pulse were able to exploit the confusion and proved to be a difficult unit to break for Sirens. However break it they did, through some excellent movement and patience from the Sirens midcourt. Abernethy and McCleery made full use of the circle edge, drawing on slick triangle plays to feed from the top of the circle directly into their shooters. Emma Barrie and Bethan Goodwin again showed their shooting prowess, slotting goals from range in the circle. 

What worked?

Towera Vinkumbo once again featured in the weekly stats leaderboard with an impressive five intercepts and seven total gains. She held a strong front position on her GS, pinning both Burger and Tschine to the baseline and used her impressive elevation to get plenty of hand to ball, batting it to her circle partner Emily Nicholl. Sirens’ ability to bring this ball through court and continually offer and drive towards the ball ensured they were able to capitalise on the turnovers they were getting and was key to their success in this match. 

What needs improvement?

For Pulse, it is clear that Sam Bird still does not know her starting seven. Fadoju did an excellent job and is athletic and brings a great energy to the Pulse defensive end, whereas Keeble provides so much experience and a level of calmness that is certainly required for the London based side. At the other end of the court, competition for a spot within the shooting circle is also proving to be a headache, with all four shooters again taking to the court. Olivia Tschine proved to be an excellent impact player, providing a tall and strong target in the circle, whilst the introduction of Rademan provided some much needed drive through the circle. Although both players seemingly did the job they were brought on to do, it took the players around them a significant amount of time to adjust to their different style of play, with Pulse not managing a single goal in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Pulse need to find a settled line to enable their midcourter to finesse the circle feed and build their bank of set plays for those high pressure moments. 

Sirens will have taken so much confidence from securing another win without their star goal attack Lynsey Gallagher. At times, Barrie and Goodwin were caught both waiting for the ball to be delivered to them, rather than one taking the lead and splitting the defenders. There were moments when they worked well together, screening off the other and if they can continue to build upon this relationship they will provide Sirens with another viable shooting partnership, even when Gallagher is back with the squad.

Where was it won?

With both the Pulse and Sirens defensive end turning over a fair amount of ball and the shooters maintaining high volume and accuracy, the match boiled down to a battle of the midcourt. Sirens showed composure and a willingness to play the ball around until the space opened up, whereas Pulse rushed the feed on numerous occasions and enabled Vinkhumbo to pick off a lot of ball. Taylor Cullen matched up well against Adean Thomas at WA and kept her exceptionally quiet during her time on court and McCleery put out an excellent game at WA maintaining a high work rate throughout all four quarters.

Where was it lost?

Pulse need to work on the amount of ball they are handing to oppositions and must address the high penalty count that plagued them in this match. With 59 penalties spread across the court – 9 in the shooting circle, 11 in the midcoast and a whopping 39 conceded by the Pulse defenders – they were unable to capitalise on the defensive pressure they worked so hard to build, letting Sirens off the hook through committing unnecessary contacts and a whole host of “coach killers.” 

When was it won or lost?

After going goal for goal for the majority of the first two quarters, Sirens went in to half time with a slim four goal advantage. In an attempt to combat this, Pulse made a few adjustments to their defensive end, followed by wholesale changes to the shooting circle after they failed to score until six minutes into the third quarter. Sirens capitalised on this and held Pulse to only four goals in the quarter, matching the lowest of any team so far this season. 

How did she do that?

The real swing in momentum for Sirens occurred towards the end of the second quarter and can be pinpointed to an incredible on the line intercept from player of the match Nicola McCleery. To have an attacking player continue to put on the defensive pressure, even when the ball is in the opposition’s goal third shows the full-team performance that Sirens executed. Sirens consolidated this turnover with seconds to spare, giving them all the momentum ahead of half time. 

Starting Line Ups:

Sirens: GS Barrie, GA Goodwin, WA McCleery, C Abernethy, WD Cullen, GD Nicholl, GK Vinkhumbo

Pulse: GS Burger, GA Rothwell, WA Thomas, C Drayne, WD Everitt, GD Fadoju, GK Adio

Wasps’ Katie Harris looking to receive a pass against Surrey storm. Photo: England Netball


Katie Harris 23/27 (85%)
Rachel Dunn 17/21 (81%)
Gizelle Allison 7/10 (70%)
TOTAL 47/58 (81%)

Gains 7 (Huckle 5)

Surrey Storm
Karyn Bailey 19/21 (90%)
Sophie Kelly 9/10 (90%)
Frankie Wells 5/7 (71%)
TOTAL 33/38 (87%)

Gains 10 (Middleton 4, Kwangwa 4)

Player of the match: Iona Christian

Match Report – Wasps v Surrey Storm

By Bethany Lord

This match was a must-win for the Wasps, who are trying to push for a top four spot on the ladder and will come up against top contenders Manchester Thunder in the next round. Although it wasn’t necessarily their best performance, they came out and did what needed to be done to give themselves the win, coming out 14 goals on top against Surrey Storm, 47-33. And what a treat it was for the viewers to have netball legends Tamsin Greenway and Camilla Buchanan in the commentary box, providing incredible commentary and analysis.

Who dominated?

It’s hard to identify a team or an individual player who dominated this match – it was a tight game on the court, at least for the first three quarters, even if that wasn’t always reflected on the scoreboard.

After a slow start, the Wasps mid-court found their rhythm in the second quarter and the partnership between Christian and Candappa was crucial in their 14 goal win. Once they stepped up, they were able to work the ball to the circle edge and open up that lob to Dunn in the back, as well as giving themselves the option for a swing across the circle and the flat ball in.

Middleton and Priest’s defensive combination was causing a lot of problems for the Wasps circle in the first half, but with Priest coming off and Middleton moving back into Goal Keeper in order to make room for Kwangwa at Goal Defence, this strong defensive partnership was lost. It can’t be a coincidence that when this change was made, the shooting circle opened up for Wasps and their attacking mid-court were finding lots more options for the feed. Kwangwa still doesn’t quite have the match fitness she needs to keep up with a shooting circle containing the likes of Dunn, Harris & Allison, and the partnership between her and Middleton just wasn’t there.

What worked?

Although it took them a while to settle into the game and for their mid-court to figure out the feed, by the end of the first quarter the Wasps shooting circle was moving well and able to share the shooting load, instead of one shooter dominating the scoreboard. Harris was impressive with 23 goals from 28 attempts, and both Dunn & Allison made significant contributions to the score during their time on court, with 17/22 and 7/8 goals respectively. Admittedly, when Storm made their defensive changes to bring Kwangwa on midway through the second quarter, they weren’t necessarily under huge amounts of pressure in the attacking circle, so it will be interesting to see if this circle can hold up against a stronger defensive circle from Manchester Thunder next round.

Storm did well at working the ball around their attacking third and giving each other those options when the circle option wasn’t there. Although Parsons and Gulvin were hitting the circle edge hard, they were struggling to find the option into the circle due to issues the shooters were having this match, and unfortunately it doesn’t matter how much you work the ball around, you need to convert to goal to win.

What needs improvement?

Both teams need to work on providing a full, four quarter effort – we saw good moments from both, but there was also a lot of messy play and a lack of composure at times.

Wasps didn’t always look comfortable playing the ball around their attacking third, and lost their heads a bit when they were forced to go out of the circle or back to the top of the transverse – they were lucky that Storm didn’t capitalise on this, particularly early on when their attacking end was still finding their feet. This is something they’re going to need to crack down on in their two week break if they want to have a chance at beating Thunder in their next match, as they’re sure to capitalise on any weakness.

Storm have been struggling to find space in their shooting circle, and to solidify those connections. The mid-court often appear hesitant on the feed, and there’s a lot of forced balls into the circle. They have great players in the circle, but they need to be working together in order to create space and provide options – their mid court do quite well at working the ball around, for the most part, but you can only do this so often before that ball gets picked off. Bailey and Kelly appear to be the combination with the most potential, and arguably already the strongest combination on court as their styles are quite suited to one another, but Kelly’s youth and inexperience means she isn’t always the best option against a more experienced opposition. So not only do Storm need to solidify the connection between Bailey and Kelly, but they need to figure out the connection between Wells and Bailey, particularly with Magee out injured.

Where was it won?

Their defence did well, but it was the attacking end that won it for Wasps. Although they struggled in the first quarter, once they hit their stride we saw a dynamic shooting circle, with Candappa and Christian providing those mid-court connections to get the ball down that attacking third and into the circle. It was great to see them not only make use of the lob to Dunn, which is arguably the more obvious option but one that can be picked up by a smart defence, but also using the swing and quick ball in, keeping the Storm’s defenders on their toes.

Where was it lost?

This season’s stand out debut at only 16 years old, Sophie Kelly, got her first go as a starting seven player, taking the Goal Attack role to Karen Bailey’s Goal Shooter. It was a big call to put Kelly against England international defender Fran Williams – although Kelly was playing well, and quite frankly, doing well to hold her own, Williams’ experience and game smarts were clear, with Kelly not having as much impact on the game as she has had in previous rounds. In saying that, Kelly was making great use of the front cut and drive, and it would’ve been great to see Bailey exit the circle a little more to provide Kelly with a little more space. Kelly’s timing on the drive needs just a little tightening, but once they’ve worked on these few kinks the Bailey and Kelly partnership is going to be one to watch.

Kelly came off in the third quarter, with Frankie Wells taking that Goal Attack bib. From this point onwards the Storm shooters struggled to find space, and the connections between Bailey and Wells weren’t there. It’s clear they were looking for a taller circle, with Wells injecting some more height in there, but with both players playing more of a holding game, they lost that dynamic movement and seemed to be struggling to find space and work off one another.

When was it won or lost?

Storm went into the third quarter 9 goals down, which isn’t really all that much in the scheme of the Super League, and there was plenty of time to turn the game around. But by the end of the quarter, heads were starting to drop, and you just didn’t feel like they had the belief that they could win. This wasn’t necessarily reflected on the scoreboard, with Storm only losing the quarter by a goal, but it was clear from the minute they stepped on court in the final quarter that they’d already lost the game in their heads. Mikki Austin has talked a lot this season about demanding a full four quarter effort from her team, and we just didn’t see it today. It’s disappointing that they dropped their heads when there was only a margin of 10 goals, as if they’d come on in that fourth quarter ready to fight for it, we could’ve seen a turn-around in the game, or at the very least, they could’ve clawed back a few goals for a closer final margin.

How did she do that?

Leah Middleton came out with two great intercepts in the last minute and a half of the second quarter, leaving the circle to pick off the pass entering the attacking third. You could really tell that Middleton was giving it her all and trying to give her team that lift they were looking for. This could’ve been a real turning point for Storm, who at this point were nine goals down and could’ve used that turnover to give themselves some momentum going into the second half. Unfortunately, despite Middleton’s efforts, they were unable to convert her gains into a goal.

 Starting lineups:

 Wasps: GS Dunn, GA Harris, WA Candappa, C Christian, WD Flannigan, GD Williams, GK Huckle

Storm: GS Bailey, GA Kelly, WA Gulvin, C Parsons, WD Cooper, GD Middleton, GK Priest 

Umpires: Julie Wilks, Natalie Gregan

Paige Kindred of Leeds Rhinos was the shortest player in the circle. Photo: England Netball


Sienna Rushton 20/32 (63%)
Rhea Dixon 12/18 (67%)
Brie Greirson 9/9 (100%)
TOTAL 41/59 (70%)

Gains 8 (Kindred 4, Harris 4)

Mary Cholhok 51/56 (91%)
Ella Clark 15/16 (94%)
Suzie Liverseidge 3/3 (100%)
Lucy Parize 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 70/76 (92%)

Gains 17 (May 6)

Player of the match: Beth Cobden (Lightning)

Match report – Rhinos v Lightning

By Ian Harkin

This match was third versus fourth, but fourth placed Loughborough Lightning made a mockery of those ladder positions as they won 70-41 and made third placed Leeds Rhinos look very ordinary. For Lightning, it’s onwards and upwards, as they look a genuine title winning chance. For Rhinos, it’s been a tough start due to injury, and coach Dan Ryan will have his work cut out to keep the team’s spirits up after such a heavy defeat. Vicki Oyesola came off just before half time. Hopefully, it is not too serious.

Who dominated?

It’s not entirely clear what the ideal height is to combat Lightning’s 201cm tall goal shooter Mary Cholhok. But we can safely say that the 175cm of Rhinos’ defender Paige Kindred isn’t it. The 26cm height disparity was amazing to see as they lined up next to each other before the first centre pass. And it was a fair indication of what was about to transpire. Try as valiantly as she might, Kindred was largely ineffective against Cholhok in that first quarter. 

The second quarter saw Kindred and Rosie Harris swap positions. Although 5cms taller than Kindred, Harris was also unable to cause the Ugandan import too many problems. Cholhok was rested by coach Sara Bayman at three-quarter time with a tally of 51 goals from 56 attempts. To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of scoring 85 goals in a full regular 60-minute match. Incredible. But there was no great respite for Rhinos in the final quarter either as 190cm tall England dual international Ella Clark simply took over the goal shooter role and proved almost as damaging. 

What worked?

Both Cholhok and Clark were aided by the blistering speed of the ball coming down court. Lightning’s attacking play in this match was so slick, and the feeds so precise, Rhinos players were regularly left unable to keep up. Whenever Lightning was in possession, the passes were crisp and clean, with players continually making themselves available, ready to receive the next pass. And it often started from the back, with Sam May and Beth Cobden pouncing on any loose ball and quickly turning defence into attack.  

What needs improvement?

It’s really hard to be critical of anything Leeds Rhinos are doing at the moment. This is their first year in the competition, they’ve been struck down with injuries to three crucial members of their starting seven, and they’ve been unable to bring in injury replacements for them. So they are totally up against it. Every game has been a learning experience for the squad and this was their toughest test to date. 

Even so, there were some basic areas that could certainly be better. One problem in this game was a lack of patience at times when in possession. Lightning was very successful in slowing the Rhinos’ attack down and forcing players wide. But instead of being patient and waiting to find the best option, passes were often rushed in hope, resulting in turnovers as the ball sailed out of play. Conversely, a notable feature of the game was a distinct lack of general hands over pressure from Leeds. Often, this meant that Panagarry and Joseph in particular, did almost as they pleased.

Young Rhinos goal shooter Sienna Rushton had a bit of a nightmare game up against promising Lightning goal keeper Alice Harvey. She was incredibly shaky on the shot, missing several easy attempts, but this early in her netball career, that is something that can easily be improved upon. 

Where was it won and lost?

Lightning had the better of basically every position on court in this game. It would be so easy to just say the goal circle is where this one was decided, and in a way that’s true. But as mentioned, the 70 goals scored were largely a product of the great lead up work down court, especially the midcourt trio of Cobden, Panagarry and Joseph. 

Joseph is a bit of an unsung hero for Lightning. She doesn’t receive the accolades of the other two who are both England Roses, but she gets the job done. Together, they form a lethal midcourt combination which definitely had by far the better of this battle. Even the vast experience of Rhinos’ captain Jade Clarke was unable to stop the relentless attack. At times it seemed almost like a Lightning training run.

When was it won or lost?

Lightning started the match well, and was up 7-2, before Rhinos fought back to trail by just two goals with four minutes remaining in the first quarter. That was as close as they got. The Loughborough team then went on an eight goals to one run to finish the term. Their ability to score quickly and capitalise on any errors, had their Leeds opponents struggling. Although it was only one quarter down, and Rhinos never gave up the fight, the match appeared to be already over as a contest.

How did she do that?

By the time the fourth quarter came around, a lot of the heat had been taken out of the game. It developed into show time for Lightning wing attack Hannah Joseph. Lauren Nicholls, on as a replacement at wing defence, attempted to fire a long ball into Ella Clark under the post. It was slightly astray and was about to be gobbled up by the Rhinos defence, when Joseph suddenly plucked it out of the air just outside the circle. Balancing on one foot, and somehow managing to stay onside, she was then able to pass to an open Clark to score. Then on the very next possession, she was able to fire in a pinpoint pass to Clark in between both Leeds circle defenders. It was two pieces of magical play in the space of 15 seconds. 

Starting lineups:

Rhinos: GS Rushton, GA Dixon, WA Grierson, C Clarke (capt), WD Harris, GD Oyesola, GK Kindred

Lightning: GS Cholhok, GA Liverseidge, WA Joseph, C Panagarry (capt), WD Cobden, GD May, GK Harvey

Mavericks’ Ine-Mari Venter calls for the ball against Celtic Dragons. Photo: England Netball


Annika Lee-Jones 25/35 (71%)
Laura Rudland 16/16 (100%)
TOTAL 41/51 (80%)

Ine-Marie Venter 24/26 (92%)
Britney Clarke 24/28 (86%)
Kadeen Corbin 9/12 (75%)
Chloe Essam 4/5  (80%)
TOTAL 61/71 (86%)

Player of the Match: Georgia Lees (Mavericks)

Match report – Iona St Joseph

We were spoilt with pre-match excitement with the announcement of the starting lineups for each team. Celtic Dragons moved Aussie defender Annika Lee-Jones into goal shooter to replace Amy Clinton who was out thanks to concussion protocol, which gave Leila Thomas the start at goal keeper at the other end of the court.

Not to be outdone, Mavericks starting seven announced Ine-Marie Venter’s debut for the club at goal shooter, something fans have been eagerly waiting to see, as well as the return of defensive stalwart and Commonwealth games gold medalist Jodie Gibson at goal defence.

A win in this game would give the Dragons a chance to get some points on the board, whilst a victory for Mavericks would see them secure fourth spot on the ladder.

 Who dominated?

Mavericks’ attacking end was the star of the show in this game, with their connections firing on all cylinders. Gabs Marshall impressed with her first start of the season, and POTM Georgia Lees was a consistent cool head in attack that the Dragons really struggled to shut down.

There was no slouching in the Mavs defence end either, with Quashie continuing the fantastic form that has seen her starting for England, and Gibson making a welcome return to the court, picking up some much needed ball.

Although Mavericks took the win, it didn’t come as easily as they would have liked. They really dominated in the first quarter, turning over Dragons’ first couple of centre passes, but Dragons came out fighting in the second quarter to win their first quarter of the season by a goal.

What worked?

Credit to Mavericks attacking end, as their second phase off the centre pass seemed to be unstoppable. Venter looked cool, calm and collected under the post, putting up 26 shots in the first half. Fans have been excited to see her on court after she spent time with the Queensland Firebirds and the Melbourne Vixens in the SSN, and they weren’t disappointed.

Given that they wouldn’t have spent much time together in training, Venter’s combination with Kadeen Corbin looked really tight. Corbin’s movement and bullet passes into the circle helped to set up her GS nicely, and Venter’s movement, knowing when to create space for Corbin to take advantage of, showcased her experience and was really fantastic to watch.

Mavericks didn’t miss a beat after half time when Venter went off, replaced by Brit Clarke whose strong holds gave her feeders the confidence to put the ball in, and she scored 24 of the 28 shots she put up in the second half.

What needs improvement?

Although Dragons were down by 20 goals at the final whistle, this felt like their best performance of the season so far. That being said, there were still too many mistakes; a number of silly errors and turnovers gave Mavs the opportunity to punish them.

 With Lee-Jones heading into goal shooter, it seemed at times as though her feeders were unwilling to put the passes into her, so it will be interesting to see how that positional change develops over time and the decisions made by the coaching staff when Amy Clinton is cleared to play again.

Although their defensive structure won them the ball at times, the Dragons defence seemed to struggle with the speed of the Mavericks attack, unable to stop the feeds into the shooters.

Where was it won?

Getting the ball into the circle just looked too easy for the Saracens side, particularly with Venter in GS for the first half of the game. That attacking confidence, teamed with some moments of defensive brilliance from the likes of Quashie and Gibson, meant that the Mavericks took a 20-goal win.

It was fantastic to see Mavs get all 12 of their players out on court, particularly Aliyah Zaranyika who was exciting to watch at wing defence.

Where was it lost?

Dragons have struggled so far this season, but this was one of their better performances so far. You can see when the scoreline starts to blow out that their confidence begins to nosedive, but credit to them today they came out fighting after the first quarter. They just seem to lack the consistency to put on a full 48-minute performance.

Co-captain Rebekah Robinson struggled at wing attack. Normally found in the goal attack position, she was shifted into the midcourt due to the league’s import rules with Lee-Jones starting at goal shooter. With eight unforced errors, there is certainly improvement to be made there if she is going to be starting in the wing attack position while Amy Clinton is out

Dragons just didn’t seem to have an answer for the well-drilled Mavericks attack, which, combined with a number of errors, meant that they couldn’t claw the score back.

When was it won or lost?

Mavericks came out of the blocks with real power, and you could tell that they were excited to play. Having Jodie Gibson back on court and the introduction of Ine-Marie Venter into the game day squad seemed to really ramp up their competitiveness. The competition for those starting seven places seems fierce in that squad demonstrated by Marshall’s start at centre, pushing captain Sasha Corbin to the bench.

 Dragons were frustrating to watch at times, turning over the ball with held balls, breaking at the centre pass, and misjudged feeds into the shooting circle. It feels like the Dragons side needs to focus on the small wins this season, focusing on a wider plan for the next few years that will help the squad to develop.

How did she do that?

Although she was on the losing side, Dragons’ goal attack Laura Rudland had a fantastic game, creating opportunities in attack. Taking the ball and turning straight to post, she played with the confidence that her side needed and she shot at 100%. As the smallest player in the shooting circle, her movement was key and her decision making was spot on; the only thing she could have benefitted from was a bit more ball from her feeders.

 For Mavericks, Brit Clarke came on in the second half and picked up where Venter left off, scoring 24 from 28, showing the formidable depth in that shooting circle. Georgie Lees was the engine of the Mavs side, a key element in that attacking end, picking up the well-deserved POTM accolade.

Finally, you can’t talk about Mavericks without mentioning Raz Quashie, who kept her team on the front foot when it looked like Dragons might be starting to garner some momentum, picking up three intercepts and three deflections over the course of the game.

Starting lineups:

Dragons: GS Lee-Jones, GA Rudland, WA Robinson, C O’Dwyer, WD Jones, GD Tyrell, GK Thomas

Mavericks: GS Venter, GA K. Corbin, WA Lees, C Marshall, WD Ecura-Dale, GD Gibson, GK Quashia

Umpires: Kate Mann, Alison Harrison, Rhian Edwards

Stars were outclassed by Lightning who went to the top of the table. Photo: England Netball


Paige Reed 15/18 (83%)
Issy Eaton 13/16 (81%)
Jane Taylor 2/6 (33%)
TOTAL 30/40 (75%)

Gains 6

Severn Stars
Ella Clark 25/30 (83%)
Mary Cholhok 23/26 (88%)
Suzie Liverseidge 10/11 (91%)
TOTAL 58/67 (87%)

Gains 7 (Harvey 3)

Player of the Match: Ella Clark (Lightning)

Lightning coach Sara Bayman (photo England Netball)

Coach Sara Bayman will be pleased to see Lightning on top of the ladder after a tough start to the season. Photo: England Netball


(after Round 4)

Team/Played/Points/Goal diff.

LIGHTNING . 5 . 12pts . +79
THUNDER . 3 . 9pts . +77
BATH . 3 . 9pts . +41
MAVERICKS . 4 . 9pts . +11

SIRENS . 4 . 9pts . +11
WASPS . 4 . 6pts . 27
RHINOS . 4 . 6pts . +3
STORM . 5 . 6pts . -14

PULSE . 3 . 0pts . -34
STARS . 4 . 0pts . -86
DRAGONS . 5 . 0pts . -115


Liana Leota, Severn Stars – sustained a break in her hand during the first quarter against Thunder and will be unavailable for approx. 5 weeks

Ongoing injuries/unavailability:

Georgia Rowe – unavailable for Severn Stars in both games due to a non covid related health issue
Lynsey Gallagher – unavailable for Strathclyde Sirens  v Pulse due to a knee injury sustained in Round 3. Awaiting scan results.
Jo Tripp – unavailable for Mavericks due to concussion protocol
Amy Clinton – unavailable for Dragons due to concussion protocol
Donnell Wallam, Leeds Rhinos – fractured radius bone, however will hopefully return before the end of the season
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 ligament damage in Round 1 and will return in a number of weeks


Round 5

Friday 12th March
5.15pm Severn Stars v Surrey Storm
7.15pm Team Bath v Manchester Thunder

Saturday 13th March
2pm Surrey Storm v Loughborough Lightning
4pm Team Bath v Severn Stars
6pm Manchester Thunder v Wasps

Sunday 14th March
2pm Strathclyde Sirens v Saracens Mavericks
4pm Loughborough Lightning v London Pulse
6pm Wasps v Leeds Rhinos

Monday 1st March 
5.15pm London Pulse v Celtic Dragons
7.15pm Leeds Rhinos v Strathclyde Sirens

England coach Jess Thirlby

England coach Jess Thirlby watching the action and taking notes. Photo: England Netball

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