Breaking away from the pack…

Round 5 of the 2022 Vitality Netball Super League once again gave us plenty of action with this year’s front-runners making themselves known and slowly pulling away from the rest.

Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning remain the only two teams unbeaten this season, as Lightning took the win against Strathclyde Siren’s on their home court in Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, whilst Manchester Thunder took six points from their double header weekend against Saracens Mavericks and Wasps. Both teams are looking concrete in defence, slick through the court and powerful in attack and arguably, neither have fully hit their peak. The Lightning defensive circle caused all sorts of problems for Siren’s attacking line, who welcomed back Emma Barrie after spending the first few weeks of the season on the bench through injury. With Barrie back in the mix, expect Sirens to switch up their shooting circle and despite being one of the youngest in the team, she will bring plenty of experience and a much needed alternative option for Head Coach Lesley MacDonald.

Surrey Storm continued to prove they were a force to be reckoned with this season, taking three points from another of last years’ top four teams in the form of Leeds Rhinos. Proscovia Peace was once again a true anchor for the team in attack and her developing partnership with Emma MaGee is really beginining to lift the Northern Irish international’s own attacking game. Despite having a strong target at the other end in Sigi Burger, Rhinos struggled to find their shooters and rotated through a number of different combinations to find their route to goal. Burger looked much improved for Rhinos and relished the additional court time, yet her partnership with Rhea Dixon, forged initially in the duck egg blue of Surrey Storm, still needs some work. Much of Rhinos attacking woes can be attributed to the Surrey defensive unit, with Niamh Cooper picking up the MVP award, which could quite easily have gone to any of Storm’s defenders. Cooper had an outstanding game and was the definition of a pest, creating a number of turnovers from hard through court defensive pressure.

London Pulse picked up another three points against a Celtic Dragons side still looking for their first win. Whilst much improved under new coach Titmuss-Morris, Dragon’s will need to start converting ‘improved’ performances into points if they want to avoid finishing at the bottom of the leader for a second season running. Pulse on the other hand, have quickly found their flow and Olivia Tchine is relishing the increased court time and truly capitalising on her opportunities this season. Appearing to settle on the preferred combination of Tchine and Australian Sacha McDonald, Pulse are chasing at the heels of the current top four.


Stats leaders of the week

Most Goals: 56 Proscovia Peace (Storm v Rhinos)

Most Feeds: 25 Iona Christian (Wasps v Thunder) 

Most Gains: 9 Shaquanda Greene-Noel (Dragons v Pulse) & Leah Middleton (Storm v Rhinos)

Most Offensive Rebounds: 4 Beth Goodwin (Sirens v Lightning)

Most Defensive Rebounds: 5 Fran Williams (Lightning v Sirens)

Most Deflections: 12 Funmi Fadoju (Pulse v Dragons)

Most Intercepts: 6 Shaquanda Greene-Noel (Dragons v Pulse)


Match Results 


Niamh McCall battles for a rebound against Lightning defenders  (Image: Jamie Williamson)


Sirens were still looking for the elusive first home win of the season going into round five, but it was going to be tricky to come by against a star studded Loughborough Lightning side. Going into this weekend’s games, Lightning were sitting in third place behind Mavericks and Thunder, the only other two undefeated teams in the league, whilst Sirens would be keen to move up out of seventh and towards the top four.

Those that were sidelined thanks to Covid protocols last week were back on the bench for Sirens, and fans would have been excited to see Emma Barrie’s name on the team sheet for the first time this season. Having felled Wasps in round one, could this be the week that Sirens chalked up their first ever win against Loughborough Lightning?   

What worked

Loughborough Lightning are continuing to build on their connections in attack from their winning season in 2021, whilst new goal defence Fran Williams develops combinations in defence with Alice Harvey and Zanele Vimbele, who both played goal keeper in the first and second halves respectively. The defensive rebounds were a huge factor in Lightning’s win, with Williams picking up five out of the seven, compared to just one for Sirens.

It’s hard to find new ways to talk about Beth Cobden, but her consistency each week at wing defence is to be admired. In attack for Lightning, Mary Cholhok, who is currently fifth on the list of top goal scorers for the season so far, took a couple of shots to get her range, but was pretty unstoppable throughout, sinking 49 from 53 at 92%.

For Sirens, they continue to show moments of real flair, patiently working the ball down the court and around circle edge when required, but also making some key split second decisions, much to the awe of the crowd. The final score often doesn’t reflect the quality of gameplay from Sirens; when watching, they look confident and often match teams for speed and physicality, but there tend to be moments, whether it’s shooting or unforced errors, that let them down. 

Captain Gia Abernethy summed up their performance well at half time, saying that they fought back well after a slow start in quarter one, but they needed much bigger energy in the second half .

Niam McCall eyes a midrange shot over strong defence. Image: Jamie Williamson

Where it was won and lost

Loughborough Lightning showed that they meant business from the first whistle, taking the score to 1-7 after just five minutes. Sirens managed to shake off the sluggish start and came back to finish the first quarter 11-16, but it left fans wondering if the slow start might come to haunt them for the rest of the game.

Sirens are becoming known for their patience in getting the ball down court and it’s fantastic to see that they are really cementing a reputation for calm, patient play. Unfortunately, looking at the stats, the biggest thing that let them down against Lightning was the shooting, with Beth Goodwin and Niamh McCall missing 15 goals between them and shooting at 78% and 70% respectively, percentages that they’re going to have to look to improve if they want a chance of making the top four. It was good to see Emma Barrie take to the court for the last five minutes of the final quarter, with Sirens presumably looking to manage her game time over the coming weeks. 

The Glasgow side do continue to show moments of brilliance, with fantastic feeds from Bethany Dix and Gia Abernethy into the shooting circle, and beautiful movement from Goodwin along the baseline, but they just need to tighten up in attack; they seemed to have tidied up the errors this week as well, with 11 unforced errors to Lightning’s 14. 

At the other end of the court, Sirens’ defenders put on a show for the Glasgow crowd with seven intercepts, Towera Vinkhumbo coming on in the second quarter and picking up four of those herself. It did feel like Sirens lost a bit of their attacking flair when Abernethy was taken off after half time, with Taylor McKevitt moving to Centre and Claire Maxwell coming on to wing defence. 

The Lightning shooting end was clinical, with Cholhok combining with goal attack Ella Clark, who dominated the battle with Sirens goal defence Emily Nicholl. Nat Panagarry continues to be the engine for Lightning, with her sharp passes slicing apart the opposition defence. Her speedy combination with Hannah Joseph at wing attack makes it hard for any defender to know where the ball is going to be coming from.

Beth Cobden continues to be, arguably, the best wing defence in the league, her height and reach over Dix helped her pick up two intercepts, three deflections and two gains. 

Lightning captain Panagarry wasn’t satisfied with a nine goal lead after half time though, saying that they wanted to be a bit more clinical in attack, making sure they were go for balls in defence, upping the pressure to make the Sirens attack have to work even harder. Her words must have had some effect, as they came into the third quarter and scored five goals to Sirens’ one in the first five minutes. 

The first five minutes of each quarter seemed to be where Sirens struggled this week, and they will be looking to improve on that before they take on the in-form Surrey Storm in round 6.

Standout Player

Ella Clark started at goal attack for Lightning and had a fantastic game, opening up the attack end for her side and keeping Emily Nicholl, one of the league’s more prolific goal defences, pretty quiet throughout. She was replaced by Susie Liversiedge, who picked up where Clark left off and provided a fantastic supporting role for superstar shooter Mary Cholhok. 

It was Loughborough Lightning’s captain Nat Panagarry who took home the player of the match accolade though, and it was well deserved. She was all over the court and it felt like she ended the game with the same pace she started with. 


Strathclyde Sirens 

Bethan Goodwin 28/36 (78%) 
Niamh McCall 16/23 (70%)
Emma Barrie 4/4 (100%)
TOTAL 48/63 (76%)

Feeds: 50 (Abernethy 24)
Gains: 9 (Vinkhumbo 5)
Penalties: 51 (Nicholl, Vinkhumbo 10)

Loughborough Lightning 

Mary Cholhok 49/53 (92%) 
Ella Clark 11/13 (85%)
Suzie Liverseidge 1/2 (50%)
TOTAL 61/68 (90%)

Feeds: 56 (Panagarry 20)
Gains: 8 (Williams 4)
Penalties: 48 (Vimbela 11)

Player of the Match: Nat Panagarry (Lightning)

Lindsay Keable and Funmi Fadoju master the defensive ‘lift’ (Image: Team Talk Photos)



London Pulse

Olivia Tchine 28/33 (85%)
Sacha McDonald 15/15 (100%)
Berri Neil 5/5 (100%)
Kira Rothwell 2/3 (67%)
TOTAL 50/56 (89%)

Feeds: 42 (Honey 13)
Gains: 18 (Fadoju 7)
Penalties: 78 (Keable 24)

Celtic Dragons

Georgia Rowe 9/12 (75%) 
Lefebre Rademan 12/17 (71%)
Katrina Short 16/19 (84%)
TOTAL 37/49 (76%)

Feeds: 28 (O’Dwyer 9)
Gains: 18 (Greene-Noel 9)
Penalties: 55 (Roddy 14)

Celtic Dragons’ Shaquanda Greene-Noel defends the shot of Olivia Tchine (Image: Team Talk Photos)


Saracens Mavericks 

Ine-Mari Venter 42/48 (88%)
Kadeen Corbin 13/14 (93%)
Chloe Essam 1/4 (25%)
TOTAL 56/66 (85%)

Feeds: 37 (K. Corbin 15)
Gains: 6 (S. Corbin 2)
Penalties: 35 (Gibson 16)

Manchester Thunder

Eleanor Cardwell 38/41 (93%)
Joyce Mvula 20/22 (91%)
Natalie Metcalf 1/3 (33%)
TOTAL 59/66 (89%)

Feeds: 37 (Metcalf 17)
Gains: 11 (Almond 5)
Penalties: 41 (Almond 17)

It was a top of the table clash between Saracens Mavericks and Manchester Thunder (Image: @SaracensMavs)



Sophie Drakeford Lewis puts up a shot for Team Bath (Image: @NetballSL)



Severn Stars

Paige Reed 32/34 (94%)
Katie Harris 9/13 (69%) 
Issy Eaton 4/6 (67%) 
TOTAL 45/53 (85%)

Feeds: 38 (Leota 18)
Gains: 10 (Artman 4)
Penalties: 45 (Thomas 13)

Team Bath

Kim Borger 26/30 (87%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 15/17 (88%)
Betsy Creak 7/9 (78%) 
TOTAL 48/56 (86%)

Feeds: 43 (Allison 14)
Gains: 8 (Maweni 4)
Penalties: 55 (Maweni 22)

All smiles for Summer Artman as she was reunited with her old Bath teammates (Image: @NetballSL)



Surrey Storm were back at Surrey Sports Park in round five against Leeds Rhinos and coming off the back of a round four win against Team Bath, the home side would have been confident going into this matchup. Both teams had a similar track record so far this season, so they would be looking to move up the table with a win, but it was always going to be a hard one to call. 

With Proscovia Peace dominating the shooting stats, the Rhinos defence were going to have their work cut out shutting down the feeds from the Storm attack into the circle. Rhinos are still developing their combinations in attack, and with Sigi Burger getting the start in goal shooter, fans would have been excited to see their new signing get more court time for the club.

What worked

Surrey Storm looked confident from the off, their connections working well across the court. In attack, Proscovia Peace was prolific in the Storm shooting end, scoring 56/56 goals at 100%, continuing her dominance of the league’s shooting statistics. Wing attack Yaz Parsons and centre Mikki Austin both did a fantastic job of sighting Peace under the post and getting her the ball. It was great to see Sophia Candappa take to the court at wing attack for the first time this season too, and Storm fans will be excited to see how her combination with Peace develops.

In defence for Storm, Niamh Cooper had an MVP performance at wing defence, picking up three intercepts and three gains, but also shutting down both Brie Grierson and Ameila Hall at wing attack for Rhinos. Leah Middleton had a great game at goal defence for Storm with four intercepts, four deflections and nine gains, but she was costly on the penalty front with 15. Her combination with Alima Priest caused headaches for the Rhinos shooting end, sending Sigi Burger to the bench after the first quarter and leading the Rhinos coaching staff to try out a number of combinations in the shooting circle.

For Rhinos, there were some strong phases of play and they started well with a three goal lead in the first quarter, but they looked sluggish at points in this game and there were inconsistencies across the court.

Where it was won and lost

With Peace under the goal post, Storm look confident and the other teams in the league are going to have to work out how they shut her down. Vicky Oyesola hit the nail on the head at half time, saying that Rhinos needed to work harder to turn the ball over higher up the court before it gets to Peace.

It was all about the small victories for the Rhinos defence, Tuaine Keenan had a tough game and you could see her frustration playing in goal keeper against Peace. Oyesola had a strong game against Emma Magee, who was playing more of a feeding role, putting up just 2/4 shots at 50%.

Rhinos struggled in the shooting end, missing 16 shots to Storm’s two, as their attackers look to form new combinations. Jade Clarke had a solid game in the centre for the Leeds side, but the mid-court were fairly quiet throughout the match; wing defence Emily Hollingworth wasn’t able to shut down those feeds into Peace.

There were a lot of changes in the Rhinos seven on court during the game, particularly in the shooting circle, as they continued to work out the best combinations, but some might argue that there were too many throughout which meant that they couldn’t get into a rhythm and work on those connections. It was particularly obvious in attack where they didn’t have a single, reliable target in the shooting circle. They looked frustrated at points, and they will be aiming to chalk up a win against Wasps next week, so it will be interesting to see how much they play about with their lineup moving forward.  

For Storm, they will be confident heading into round six up in Glasgow against Sirens next week. With so much reliance on Peace, do the Surrey side need to be wary of how much they are currently relying on their superstar shooter, perhaps looking to switch up their attacking end towards the end of the game if they’re ahead. 

Standout player

Whilst Proscovia Peace had a brilliant game at goal shooter for Storm, it was their defence that won them the game. Wing defence Niamh Cooper took home the player of the match title, shutting down two different wing attacks for Rhinos and her combination with Middleton and Priest in defence for Storm caused real headaches for the opposition shooters.


Starting Lineups

GS Peace GA Magee WA Parsons C Austin WD Cooper GD Middleton GK Priest

GS Burger GA Dixon WA Grierson C Clark WD Hollingworth GD Oyesola GK Keenan

Surrey Storm

Proscovia Peace 56/56 (100%)
Emma Magee 2/4 (50%) 
TOTAL 58/60 (97%)

Feeds: 56 (Magee 19)
Gains: 20 (Middleton 9)
Penalties: 44 (Middleton 15)

Leeds Rhinos

Sigi Burger 29/36 (81%)
Sienna Rushton 12/15 (80%) 
Rhea Dixon 8/13 (62%)
Brie Grierson 0/1 (0%) 
TOTAL 49/65 (75%)

Feeds: 46 (Dixon 13)
Gains: 8 (Hollingworth, Oyesola, Keenan 2)
Penalties: 59 (Keenan 17)

Player of the Match: Niamh Cooper (Storm)

Wing Defence Niamh Cooper has an outstanding game to win MVP (Image: @SurreyStorm)


Shadine van der Merwe made her triumphant return to the VNSL with her debut for Manchester Thunder. (Image: Touchline Sports & Events Photography)



In-form Thunder returned home to Manchester to take on a Wasps Netball side looking to find their 2nd win of the season. Thunder lined up somewhat unexpectedly, Ellie Cardwell moving into Goal Shooter to make way for Nat Metcalf at Goal Attack, young Lois Pearson starting in Wing Attack. Whilst Metcalf is clearly a formidable Goal Attack, she’s not Thunder’s first choice for that position, neither is Pearson in at Wing Attack, and this suggested early on this game was one of experimentation and combination-testing for Thunder, Wasps not seen as tough enough opponents to line up as usual. Wasps stuck to their regular line-up, Lucy Parize and Rachel Dunn starting in the shooting circle, Nicholls reprising the Centre bib, and Ella Powell-Davies and Josie Huckle defending together in the circle.

Manchester Thunder started strongly, with Metcalf playing more of a 2nd Wing Attack role as opposed to a traditional Goal Attack, Cardwell taking on the majority of the shooting. This helped to carve open Wasps defence with Cardwell’s hold simply far too strong for Huckle. It was a similar story in the centre third, Caroline O’Hanlon outclassing Lauren Nicholls, Nicholls’ struggling to keep up with O’Hanlon or have any impact. Kerry Almond showed why she is still Thunder’s first choice keeper, putting immense pressure over Parize and Dunn’s shots and boxing out incredibly to pick up 4 rebounds. The first half ended 38-22 to Thunder, Wasps not turning up for the first half, Josie Huckle admitting coach Mel Mansfield had given the team a rocket at 1/4 time.

The second half was a completely different story. Although Thunder eventually won the game 71-51, they only won the 2nd half by 4, 33-29. Wasps made changes for the second half, Gezelle Allison, Christina Shaw, Rachel Fee and Leah Goss all entering the game. Goss at Centre and Allison at Goal Shooter made a huge impact, changing the dynamic of the Wasps side and Goss in particular playing with freedom and flair. Whilst this Wasps side ended the game well, there are questions to be asked around the mentality of the side and the mood in the camp, players seeming unmotivated and unbothered when they were beaten comprehensively in the first half. Thunder are, undoubtedly, title contenders. However Wasps have a long way to go if they would like to join them in Finals.


Manchester Thunder 

Eleanor Cardwell 47/51 (92%)
Joyce Mvula 13/18 (72%)
Nat Metcalf 10/12 (83%)
Lois Pearson 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 71/82 (87%)

Feeds: 71 (Pearson 23)
Gains: 11 (Almond 7)
Penalties: 39 (Almond 9)


Gezelle Allison 27/36 (75%)
Rachel Dunn 20/20 (100%)
Lucy Parize 4/7 (57%)
TOTAL 51/63 (81%)

Feeds: 58 (Christian 25)
Gains: 11 (Dunn, Huckle, Fee 3)
Penalties: 39 (Huckle 13)

Player of the Match: Nat Metcalf (Thunder)

Leed’s Shooter Sigi Burger has her concentration face on (Image: @RhinosNetballSL)



(Team . Pld .  Pts . +/-)

Thunder . 6 . 18 . +93
Lightning . 4 . 12 . +68
Mavericks . 5 . 12 . +25
Bath . 5 . 9 . +29

Pulse . 5 . 9 . +21
Storm . 5 . 6 . -20
Rhinos . 4 . 6 . -22
Sirens . 5 . 3 . -34
Stars . 5 . 3 . -38
Wasps . 5 . 3 . -43
Dragons . 5 . 0 . -79



Round 6:

Fri 7:30pm Bath v Thunder Sky (YouTube)
Sat 2pm Pulse v Stars
Sat 2pm Sirens v Storm
Sat 7pm Lightning v Mavericks 
Sun 4pm Rhinos v Wasps Sky (YouTube) 
Mon 5:30pm Stars v Dragons Sky


Arguably Round 6 will give us some of the most hotly contested matches of the season, with all four of our current top four teams facing off against each other. Bath will be looking to put their early troubles behind them as they take on unbeaten Thunder and keep an eye out for the battle of the Roses with Bath Goal Defence Layla Guscoth likely to line up against Thunder’s Eleanor Cardwell.

My pick for match of the round however is Strathclyde Sirens against Surrey Storm. After contesting for a top four position in the 2021 season, Sirens have had an underwhelming start to the year, with only one win under their belt. Storm, having taken six points from last year’s top four teams will come into this match as arguably the favourites. Sirens need to find their form and find it quickly, otherwise the increasingly impressive Storm side could continue to widen the gap between themselves and the Scottish franchise. Towera Vinkhumbo and Proscovia Peace will be a fierce battle and lookout for Wing Defence Taylor McKevitt’s match up against Storm captain Yaz Parsons.

Hear from the players and coaches via our friends at The Netball Show.



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