Contributors – Zara Collings, Iona St Joseph, Daisey Cotterill and Ian Harkin
Double Header, Double Pressure…
By Zara Collings
Rounds 13 and 14 gave us another double header weekend at the Copperbox, with all eleven teams taking to the East London court. There were huge match ups throughout the weekend, with many teams taking on their ladder neighbours, giving us plenty of movement across the board.
It will be a weekend that Celtic Dragons will not forget, securing their first win of the season against Surrey Storm. Whilst it may have taken them thirteen rounds to get it right, they absolutely deserved those three points for a gritty and much improved performance. Annika Lee-Jones and Abbie Tyrrell were strong in defence, each securing four gains for their team and Amy Clinton was as reliable as ever under the post, shooting at 97%. The leadership of Clare Jones on court has been key in turning around the Welsh side’s fortunes, who put out another consistent performance to drive her team to success, also securing her spot in the Sky Sports Pundit Team of the Week.
It was a huge weekend for Team Bath, who maintain their top of the table position, as six points now separate them from second placed Loughborough Lightning. Against fellow top four teams Wasps and Manchester Thunder, this was a true test of Bath’s resolve and skill to back up quickly against another top quality team, whilst maintaining their trademark physicality and energy. The passion from the team was encapsulated on Monday night in their clash with Manchester Thunder, with both teams roaring their side to success ahead of stepping on court for the final quarter. This hunger and energy is another reminder of quite how much these teams have given up to get this league going.
Thunder will be disappointed not to have secured the victory against Bath, pushing them continuously throughout the match, until a lapse in concentration in the final quarter saw them outplayed to a 44-41 Bath victory. This was an intense and pacey game, with both sides shooting above 90% accuracy. The return of Captain Emma Dovey certainly bolstered the northern defensive unit, who caused the usually unflappable combination of Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis plenty of headaches. Strong circle positioning from Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell let us see a Thunder attack line fire in perhaps the most impressive manner we have seen so far this year. Karen Grieg and Tracey Neville will be hoping their team is beginning to peak just at the right moment, as Thunder look to cement their finals position.
Scoring an incredible 120 goals across their two matches at 84% accuracy, Dan Ryan’s Rhinos are knocking on the door of the top four after securing wins against Strathclyde Sirens and Wasps. Donnell Wallam was nothing short of outstanding under the post and her feeder’s ability to pick and choose when to give the long ball in and when to work the ball to the circle edge earned Wing Attack Brie Grierson the Player of the Match award in both this weekend’s clashes.
Looking ahead to Round 15, I’m tipping Team Bath v Leeds Rhinos to be an explosive matchup. Rhinos have been slowly pushing their way up the ladder in recent weeks and Team Bath have proven they are beatable. With the strength of Wallam tested against the experience of internationals Eboni Osoro-Brown and Layla Gusgoth, she will once again, really have to step up for her team. We will also be treated to another England legends match up, with Jade Clarke and Serena Guthrie fighting the battle of the centres in the midcourt. Both play a highly defensive game and often swing back into the Wing Defence position, so it will be their ability to link through court to their attacking players that will be key to success in this match.
Stats Leaders of the Week
Most Goals: 62 Donnell Wallam (Rhinos v Sirens)
Most Gains: 11 Layla Guscoth (Bath v Wasps)
Most Offensive Rebounds: 6 Donnell Wallam (Rhinos v Sirens)
Most Defensive Rebounds: 3 Layla Guscoth (Bath v Wasps)
Most Intercepts: 6 Layla Guscoth (Bath v Wasps)
CELTIC DRAGONS 48 def SURREY STORM 39
Karyn Bailey 27/29 (93%)
Emma Magee 12/17 (59%)
TOTAL 39/46 (85%)
Amy Clinton 29/30 (97%)
Rebekah Robinson 19/21 (90%)
TOTAL 48/51 (94%)
Gains 5 (Lee-Jones, Tyrrell 2)
Player of the Match: Clare Jones (Dragons)
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING 55 def SARACENS MAVERICKS 47
Ine-Marie Venter 40/47 (85%)
Kadeen Corbin 7/9 (78%)
TOTAL 47/56 (84%)
Gains 15 (Trip 7)
Mary Cholhok 41/44 (93%)
Ella Clark 14/18 (78%)
TOTAL 55/62 (89%)
Gains 13 (Cobden 4)
Player of the Match: Mary Cholhok (Lightning)
SEVERN STARS 46 def SURREY STORM 39
Karyn Bailey 31/33 (94%)
Emma Magee 2/4 (50%)
Frankie Wells 6/6 (100%)
TOTAL 39/43 (91%)
Gains 10 (Priest 7)
Paige Reed 24/28 (86%)
Georgia Rowe 19/20 (95%)
Issy Eaton 3/3 (100%)
TOTAL 46/51 (90%)
Gains 14 (Herdman 5)
Player of the Match: Paige Reed (Stars)
Match Report: Storm v Stars
By Iona St Joseph
It was a must-win game for both Storm and Stars this week, who went into Rounds 13/14 in 9th and 10th place in the table respectively.
The return of Liana Leota for Stars after injury has been welcome news for their attacking end, and Welsh international Kyra Jones started the game at Centre as a replacement for the injured Bethan Dyke, stepping out of retirement to join the Stars squad for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Storm would have been looking to hold on to 9th place and put in a winning performance after their loss to bottom of the table Dragons on Friday evening.
It was a pretty evenly matched fixture as you may expect from two teams sitting so close in the table, but it started off scrappily with each team turning over the other’s first centre pass.
Although fairly even for goals in the first quarter, it seemed as though Storm were having to work much harder to get the ball into the shooting circle for most of the first half. It was a pretty evenly matched game, so neither team ‘dominated’ throughout, but it was Stars that pushed the lead out to win by seven in the final quarter.
Despite the Stars win, two Storm players dominated the stats sheet, with the ever-reliable Karyn Bailey scoring 31/33 at 94% and Alima Priest at the other end of the court, picking up seven of her team’s 10 gains.
Priest was a fantastic defensive threat for Surrey Storm, and her dominance pushed Stars starting Goal Shooter Georgia Rowe to the bench in the second quarter. Picking up six intercepts over the course of the game, she really created doubt in the minds of the Stars attack and, at points, helped to keep her side in the match. Backed up by Leah Middleton, who showcased her skills with some brilliant tips and strong defensive rebounds, the Storm defence put in a great performance against the Stars shooters.
The through court performance was to be admired from Stars, as they picked up 14 gains and their conversion rate from those pickups helped them to secure the win. Intercepts abound with six of the 10 players that took to the court getting at least one intercept to their name. The Stars defence felt a lot more disciplined in this game, with Lucy Herdman, Adi Bolakoro and Nia Jones working well together to force errors from the Storm attack, and Iman Thomas coming on for Bolakoro in the third quarter.
What needs improvement?
Storm struggled to bring the game home when they had the opportunity. Stars pushed the scoreline out to six in the third quarter and Storm managed to come back to within two, but they weren’t able to keep the momentum up when it was really needed.
There were errors from both sides, both teams finishing the game on nine unforced errors each. Five of those errors for Storm came off the hands of player-coach Mikki Austin, which she won’t be happy with.
It didn’t feel like it was any single issue causing trouble for Storm in this game, and it was fairly evenly matched until the third quarter, but Stars kept their composure to secure the win.
Where was it won?
Although it was a competitive game throughout, Stars seemed to have the edge, appearing to be the more confident side, particularly in their fourth quarter, and they capitalised on Storm’s errors. Stars Goal Attack Paige Reed helped to secure her team the win with a fantastic performance in the shooting circle.
With 43 penalties to Storm’s 58, it felt like Stars were a lot tighter in defence in this game. Wing Defence Nia Jones in particular picked up just seven penalties for the whole game whilst also managing to keep Storm Wing Attack Yaz Parsons fairly quiet throughout the match.
At half time, Stars captain Liana Leota said that her side needed to be “more clinical in attack” and their final quarter showed what they are capable if they keep focused for the full 12 minutes.
Where was it lost?
Despite having the shooting powerhouse that is Bailey dominating underneath the goal post, Storm struggled for volume and consistency from their Goal Attacks. Emma Magee started the game, but was replaced at half time, shooting just two goals from four attempts at 50%. Francesca Wells came on for the final two quarters, and although she shot six from six goals at 100%, volume seems to be an issue.
The Surrey side found it difficult to get the ball through the centre third and into their attackers, often having to go back and reset, which led to frustration and simple mistakes, rather than taking the time and patience to work the ball into their shooters. The errors became more noticeable during the final quarter thanks to the added time pressure towards the end of the game.
When was it won or lost?
It was a close game and at points felt like Storm could have made a comeback. Drawing the third quarter 11 goals apiece and with just four goals separating the teams in the overall, Stars certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking their foot off the gas. Unfortunately for Storm, they couldn’t emulate their third quarter performance during the last 12 minutes and Stars secured the win, leapfrogging over Storm into 9th in the table.
How did she do that?
Player of the match Stars Goal Attack Paige Reed had a solid game, particularly in the third quarter, shouldering the bulk of her team’s goals. Not only did she shoot at 86%, Reed was also a key playmaker in the Stars attack end and she really showed her skillset during this game. Her connections with Leota and Jones from circle edge, combined with her movement in the circle, gave the Storm defenders plenty to think about.
Storm: GS Bailey, GA Magee, WA Parsons, C Austin, WD Cooper, GD Middleton, GK Priest
Stars: GS Rowe, GA Reed, WA Leota, C K Jones, WD N Jones, GD Bokaloro, GK Herdman
STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 48 def LONDON PULSE 38
Olivia Tchine 18/19 (95%)
Sigi Burger 10/13 (77%)
Lefebre Rademan 6/7 (86%)
Kira Rothwell 4/5 (80%)
TOTAL 38/44 (86%)
Gains 12 (Everitt 4)
Emma Barrie 27/28 (96%)
Niamh McCall 21/26 (81%)
TOTAL 48/54 (89%)
Gains 12 (Nicholl, Vinkhumbo 3)
Player of the Match: Niamh McCall (Sirens)
SARACENS MAVERICKS 59 def CELTIC DRAGONS 39
Britney Clarke 30/31 (97%)
Chloe Essam 18/21 (86%)
Kadeen Corbin 11/14 (79%)
TOTAL 59/66 (89%)
Gains 13 (Trip 4)
Amy Clinton 24/28 (86%)
Rebekah Robinson 15/19 (79%)
TOTAL 39/47 (89%)
Gains 13 (Tyrrell 5)
Player of the Match: Chloe Essam (Mavericks)
LEEDS RHINOS 69 def STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 51
Emma Barrie 23/23 (100%)
Bethan Goodwin 6/7 (86%)
Niamh McCall 22/25 (88%)
TOTAL 51/55 (93%)
Gains 8 (Cullen, Nicholl 2)
Donnell Wallam 62/65 (95%)
Rhea Dixon 4/9 (44%)
Sienna Rushton 3/4 (75%)
TOTAL 69/78 (88%)
Gains 14 (Keenan 5)
Player of the Match – Brie Grierson (Rhinos)
Match report: Sirens v Rhinos
By Daisey Cotterill
A game that was speculated as a must watch, that would be intensely close throughout. Turned out to be a game that evidenced Leeds Rhinos confidence and determination to take a top four spot. Whilst Strathclyde Sirens did not have defensive powerhouse Towera Vinkhumbo to start new girl Rachel Conway made her Superleague debut against Donell Wallam, who evidently has caused many problems for teams since her return to the court. In previous games Sirens were the ones to watch, however in this game appeared more settled, or possibly deflated compared to the energy of Rhinos.
From the get-go Rhinos showed their desire to win and come out victorious, leading from the first quarter, picking up the loose balls due to uncharacteristic mistakes by Sirens. The domination of Rhinos was consistent throughout keeping a small lead over Sirens. Rhino’s defensive unit made things difficult for the opposition with the likes of Tuaine Keenan persistently interrupting Siren’s rhythm, creating more opportunities for her team. Their consistency meant they took a 20-goal gap at the third quarter time.
For Sirens, Bethany Dix and Emma Barrie enabled their team to stay in the game with their attacking partnership, Dix gave some impressive and clinical feeds into Barrie, who remained cool, calm and collected. This calm approach from Barrie and the attacking unit meant they were able to stay close to Rhinos and compete to the very end.
Rhinos were able to take the win due to their consistent and clinical performance. All players effectively transitioned from attack to defence when needed, specifically the attacking end. Wallam moved straight from shooter mode to defence every time, pressuring every pass. This was similar for all Rhinos players, who fought hard and appeared ball hungry. In addition to this, the shooting consistency from Wallam and her strong holds made it easy for her team mates to feed her effectively, even with the rare miss Wallam was straight up for the offensive rebound to ensure her team were rewarded.
The attacking partnerships and use of substitutions, were key power moves for Sirens. All attacking players kept their composure when it came to feeding the circle and when needed Barrie strived to keep them in the game. Likewise, the use of their full team, showed the depth Sirens have and enabled them to attempt to adapt to the strong performance Rhinos were putting out. The likes of Conway stepping up to the task and Vinkhumbo, although heavily taped due to injury, and MacPhail coming onto court to mix things up.
What needs improvement?
At a glance Rhinos can appear slightly one dimensional using Wallam as their tall standing shooter, which may only work due to her height difference compared to her opponents and her ability to get close to the post. This may cause problems for Rhinos if a defensive unit can adapt to this and cause problems in the Rhino’s circle.
Sirens always show grit and determination, in this game mistakes were made, and this meant they were punished because of that. The opposition’s unstoppable shooter did not help Sirens and meant that any little mistake that was made would be turned over and converted.
Where was it lost?
Both the number of mistakes and the fact at times Sirens did not make use of their time and options, meant that they missed out in this game. As previously stated, Sirens mistakes meant they were punished due to the fact Rhinos have a strong, tall option at shooter, who has a high shooting average throughout both the game and the season as a whole. This meant that Sirens could not afford to make mistakes and if they did this put them further behind in the game.
In addition to this, at times Sirens could not work the ball around effectively due to the pressure of Rhinos defence, this added to the unforced errors and meant Wallam secured another goal for Rhinos.
Where was it won?
Rhinos were able to secure and maintain their lead due to the unforced errors of Sirens and the performance of Wallam. Having a consistent shooter and an attacking unit that is able to successfully feed her, enabled Rhinos to come out victorious. The defensive pressure of Rhinos also added to their win, picking up loose balls and hunting for interceptions. These were then quickly transported to Wallam who successfully took Rhinos to the final whistle with a win. The partnerships in Rhino’s attack meant that the ball was successfully played around and fed into the shooters. These partnerships are clearly shown to be successful with a variety of players, as Dan Ryan made multiple changes in attack enabling Rhea Dixon and Sienna Rushton to both effectively work on this and try new combinations. This with the experience of Jade Clarke and the player of the match Brie Grierson meant Rhinos were successful.
How did she do that?
Wallam has showcased her skill and potential since coming back from injury, at the half she had 35 goals, more than some teams score in an entire game. She remained consistent throughout finishing with 62 goals to her name. She is able to be the holding shooter with flare, adding in lay-ups and trick shots, rewarding her team’s efforts throughout the game. Her 6 ft 2 stature made it hard for any defence to stop her, especially Sirens considering they didn’t have Vinkhumbo for the majority of the game due to injury. Wallam is a key player for Rhinos and shows this in every game, specifically in this game against Sirens remaining consistent and unstoppable.
Sirens: GS Barrie, GA McCall, WA Dix, C Abernethy, WD Cullen, GD Nicholl, GK Conway.
Rhinos: GS Wallam, GA Dixon, WA Grierson, C Clarke, WD Hollingworth, GD Oyesola, GK Keenan
MANCHESTER THUNDER 50 def LONDON PULSE 42
Olivia Tchine 28/31 (90%)
Lefebre Rademan 14/19 (74%)
TOTAL 42/50 (84%)
Gains 12 (Adio 4)
Joyce Mvula 30/35 (86%)
Ellie Cardwell 20/26 (77%)
TOTAL 50/61 (82%)
Gains 10 (O’hanlon, Almond 3)
Player of the Match – Caroline O’Hanlon (Thunder)
TEAM BATH 41 def WASPS NETBALL 37
Kim Borger 30/33 (91%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 11/11 (100%)
TOTAL 41/44 (93%)
Gains 16 (Guscoth 11)
Rachel Dunn 18/20 (90%)
Gazelle Allison 12/12 (100%)
Katie Harris 7/9 (78%)
TOTAL 37/41 (90%)
Gains 12 (Flanagan 4)
Player of the Match – Layla Guscoth (Bath)
TEAM BATH 44 def MANCHESTER THUNDER 41
Joyce Mvula 21/21 (100%)
Ellie Cardwell 20/23 (87%)
TOTAL 41/44 (93%)
Gains 12 (Carter, Dovey 3)
Kim Borger 31/33 (94%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 13/15 (87%)
TOTAL 44/48 (92%)
Gains 9 (Allison 3)
Player of the Match – Serena Guthrie (Bath)
LEEDS RHINOS 51 def WASPS 41
Donnell Wallam 44/55 (80%)
Rhea Dixon 7/10 (70%)
TOTAL 51/65 (78%)
Gains 11 (Oyesola 3)
Rachel Dunn 26/27 (96%)
Katie Harris 2/2 (100%)
Gazelle Allison 13/17 (76%)
TOTAL 41/46 (89%)
Gains 14 (Flanagan 5)
Player of the Match – Brie Grierson (Rhinos)
Halimat Adio (Pulse): Lateral Meniscus tear – out for the rest of the season
Razia Quashie (Mavericks): unconfirmed ankle injury and has not been in match day squad for a number of weeks
Towera Vinkhumbo (Sirens): Currently nursing a knee injury and playing restricted minutes
Sigi Burger (Pulse): Knee injury and likely to be out for a number of weeks
Lynsey Gallagher, Strathclyde Sirens – injured knee and hoping to return before the end of the season
(after Round 14)
BATH . 14. 39pts . +177
LIGHTNING . 13 . 33pts . +203
THUNDER . 13 . 30pts . +158
WASPS . 15 . 28pts . +94
MAVERICKS . 14 . 25pts . +29
RHINOS . 14 . 24pts . +15
SIRENS . 14 . 20pts . -25
PULSE . 14 . 9pts . -83
STARS . 14 . 9pts . -163
STORM . 13 . 6pts . -106
DRAGONS . 14 . 3pts . -299
Catchup on the latest Vitality Netball Superleague news, and hear from the players and coaches via our friends at The Netball Show.
Sunday, May 9
12pm – Stars v Lightning
2pm – Bath v Rhinos
4pm – Sirens v Storm
6pm – Dragons v Thunder
Monday, May 10
5:15pm – Lightning v Storm
7:15pm – Wasps v Pulse