Contributors – Zara Collings, Rona Hunnisett, Ian Harkin, Daisey Cotterill and Eve Cobbett
Confidence is rising…
By Zara Collings
Rounds five and six gave us another bumper four days of netball, as all eleven teams took to the court after a much needed weekend break. For many, the bye weekend offered a chance to regroup, put in some hard training sessions and take to the court with renewed enthusiasm. None more so than Severn Stars and London Pulse, who claimed their first wins of the 2021 season against Surrey Storm and Celtic Dragons. For Stars, the return of target Shooter Georgia Rowe, coupled with her mid-court’s new-found confidence to turn and sight her, proved to be the winning formula they needed to secure victory. It was the most comprehensive performance we have seen from Stars so far this year and they achieved this without their superstar Captain Liana Leota on court. There is no denying her flair and creativity is world class, however with Bethan Dyke and Lucy Harris partnering in the mid-court, we have instead seen Stars take a more measured approach to goal, which has proven to be key to their success.
There is also something to be said for the more stable mid-court line up London Pulse brought to their game against Dragons, with Ellie Rattu and Ashleigh Dekker earning the bibs in Centre and Wing Attack. The explosive Fumni Fadoju and Halimat Adio were finally rewarded for their dynamic defensive pressure, as Pulse were able to maintain composure to take their turnovers through to goal. In the shooting circle, Pulse have seemingly developed two distinct options; Sigi Burger partnering with Kira Rothwell to start the match and both Lefebre Rademan and Olivia Tschine entering the game in the second half to provide fresh legs and some added punch. Burger and Tschine offer Pulse a strong, tall target in the circle and can be deadly accurate, so it will be interesting to see if Pulse opts for this dual combo attacking line up throughout the rest of the season or whether Sam Bird settles on a preferred line-up.
One of the weekend’s biggest talking points was the nail-biting draw between Strathclyde Sirens and Saracens Mavericks, ending on 34 a piece. Whilst both sides had the opportunity to take the match and push ahead at various points, Sirens will certainly be the happier team with the even result. Despite trailing heading in to the last quarter, the relentless defensive pressure from Taylor Cullen, Emily Nicholl and Towera Vinkhumbo turned ball over in critical moments to pull Sirens back in to the match and the Scottish side showed plenty of grit and determination to maintain focus and intensity until the final whistle, something which Karen Atkinson and Lesley McDonald should be thrilled with. Contrastingly, Kat Ratnapala will have a lot of questions for her Mavericks girls after finally being able to bring all of her starting seven players to court at the same time, as Jo Tripp returned to the defensive circle after concussion protocol kept her on the sidelines for the previous few rounds. Notching up a dismal 28 unforced errors in 48 minutes, Mavericks will be hoping to right a few wrongs when they next take to the court against London Pulse in Round Seven.
Loughborough Lightning continued their incredible pre-break form, picking up another six points against Severn Stars and Surrey Storm. As well as claiming the crucial championship points, Lightning also demonstrated they were a side that was capable of pushing through to win ugly, after some strong patches of play from Pulse challenged Lightning early on. Suzie Liverseige proved again to be an excellent weapon for Lightning, offering something different to English Rose Ella Clark. Lightning Coach Sara Bayman has shown plenty of trust in her younger players, bringing on the likes of Liverseige and Jas Odeogberin in tight moments and is being rewarded for that faith. Both have really stepped up when needed and make a real impact from the bench. The defensive duo of Alice Harvey and Sam May continues to go from strength to strength; the two picking up an incredible three intercepts and twelve deflections in their match against Surrey Storm.
Wasps will also be pleased with the weekend’s results, claiming six vital league points against Manchester Thunder and Leeds Rhinos, pulling themselves into third place. Clinical in defensive, Josie Huckle and Fran Williams worked well together to cover the circle and were able to switch seamlessly, with the agility and timing of the Wasps mid-court ensuring they were delivering turnover ball safely into their shooting circle. Contrastingly, the Manchester Thunder mid-court were disorganised and unable to capitalise on the vast amount of ball Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey were winning in defence. Against arguably their toughest competition so far this season in Bath and Wasps, Thunder were unable to find the answers and did not appear to have a Plan B.
Their 25 goal loss to Team Bath was the most shocking result of the round and this string of defeats sees Thunder drop out of the top four into sixth position. Their through court transitional play was sloppy and laboured at times, something Karen Grieg and Tracey Neville will certainly look to improve ahead of Round Seven next weekend. With so much firepower and strength in the mid-court, the challenge for Thunder is finding the right combination of Malcolm, Carter and O’Hanlon to cover the Centre and Wing Attack roles. Whilst Thunder have a lot to work on after the two performances this weekend, credit must go to young shooter Berri Neal, who provided immediate impact when brought on in both matches and shot incredibly well at 100% (7/7). This is a huge positive for Thunder, who lack a natural Goal Attack after long-standing servant Kathryn Turner took time away this season to prepare for the birth of her first child.
It was also announced this week that Celtic Dragons would receive a £500 fine and a three point deduction after they played both imports Annika Lee-Jones and Rebekah Robinson inside the shooting circle in their Round One match against Surrey Storm. This sanction will only be activated should Dragons breach these rules again, which is incredibly fortunate for the team currently sitting on zero league points. The Vitality Netball SuperLeague’s Disciplinary Committee concluded this to be the most appropriate response as the breach occurred for only 39 seconds and no clear competitive advantage was gained during this time.
Looking ahead to Round Seven, watch out for Stars matching up against Rhinos on Monday night, with both teams coming in off the back of a hard fought win, consolidating their performances will be key. However I’m pegging Sirens v Wasps as my match-up of the round, with the mid-court battle being where I see this match being won and lost. Both sides have immense firepower and determination and with Sirens claiming the title of the season’s favourite underdogs, expect this match to be fiery.
Stats Leaders of the Week
Most Goals: 40 Mary Cholhok (Lightning v Pulse)
Most Gains: 10 Towera Vinkhumbo (Sirens v Mavericks)
Most Offensive Rebounds: 5 Sienna Rushton (Rhinos v Sirens)
Most Defensive Rebounds: 4 Lucy Herdman (Stars v Bath)
Most Intercepts: 8 Towera Vinkhumbo (Sirens v Mavericks)
SEVERN STARS 49 def SURREY STORM 46
Georgia Rowe: 29/31 (94%)
Paige Reed: 17/24 (71%)
Jane Taylor 3/3 (100%)
TOTAL 49/66 (74%)
Gains: 11 (Jones, Kelly, Thomas 3)
Karyn Bailey: 33/36 (92%)
Frankie Wells 8/11 (73%)
Sophie Kelly 5/6 (83%)
TOTAL 46/53 (87%)
Gains 5 (Middleton 2)
Player of the Match – Paige Reed (Stars)
Match Report – Stars v Storm
By Rona Hunnisett
Severn Stars notched up their first win of the season against Surrey Storm, in an entertaining match for lovers of attacking, clinical netball.
The Stars attacking line up was simply too strong for Storm, who often looked half a pace behind the West Country side. The influence of Liana Leota, still sidelined with a hand injury, was clear to see as Lucy Harris and Bethan Dyke used short leads to drive to the circle edge, where player of the match Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe took full advantage to push Stars on to the victory.
Storm led early on, but once the Stars line up found their range, their confidence grew, and with Nia Jones, Adi Bolakoro and Lucy Herdman making the Surrey side fight for every pass in the goal third, errors started to creep in. Meanwhile, Reed showed why she is one of England’s most promising goal attacks, using her full repertoire of front cuts and short drives to draw the defenders away from Rowe, and feeding her shooting partner with pinpoint accuracy.
What needs improvement?
Surrey Storm contested early on, but took a while to adapt to the blindside feeds being sent in to the circle for Rowe to take, uncontested, under the post. Adding in more variety in defence, to add confusion in the minds of the Stars feeders, would have allowed Storm to turn over more ball in the goal third, but by the time Leah Middleton was switched to goal keeper at the start of the third quarter, and began to manoeuvre Rowe away from the post, the Welsh international had found her range and confidence.
Where was it won?
Clinical attacking moves, reminiscent of Leota in her prime, were the order of the day for the Stars front line, with Harris and Dyke driving the ball to goal with precision and pace. The experienced second half defensive combination of Malysha Kelly and Iman Thomas for Stars slowly tightened the screw on the Storm attack, and despite some bright moments from 16 year old goal attack Sophie Kelly, errors crept into the Surrey side’s game plan, which Stars took full advantage of.
Where was it lost?
This was a game for fans of attacking skills, with both sides taking route one to goal whenever possible. In a game in which neither side could build a convincing lead throughout the match, it came down to self belief and sticking to game plan, and, on this occasion, Stars did their jobs just a little bit better. Storm did not have an answer to the pace and accuracy of the Stars attack, and despite forcing a couple of feeds over the backline towards the end of the game, never really found an answer to the height and confidence of Rowe. The return of Leota from injury will only bolster the Severn side’s front line and improve their prospects of climbing further up the table.
How did she do that?
Veteran Australian shooter Karyn Bailey provided a real moment of genius towards the end of the first half. Stranded at the top of the circle, with no options for an outlet pass thanks to the Stars smothering defence on the Surrey side’s midcourt, Bailey backed herself to go to goal – and with a step and a swift pass to herself off the post, drove in under the net for a simple goal.
Stars: GS Rowe, GA Reed, WA Dyke. C Harris, WD Jones GD Bolakaro, GK Herdman
Storm: GS Bailey GA Wells, WA Gulvin, C Parsons, WD Cooper, GD Middleton, GK Priest
To hear from the players and coach, post match, tune into the Surrey Storm Podcast.
TEAM BATH 60 def MANCHESTER THUNDER 35
Kim Borger 39/39 (100%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 17/17 (100%)
Betsy Creak 4/8 (50%)
TOTAL 60/64 (94%)
Gains: 18 (Guscoth 7)
Joyce Mvula 15/16 (94%)
Ellie Cardwell 15/18 (83%)
Berri Neil 5/5 (100%)
TOTAL 35/39 (90%)
Gains 6 (Almond 3)
Player of the Match – Kim Borger (Bath)
Bath v Thunder – Match report
By Ian Harkin
This was a score line that nobody saw coming. Surely not even the most optimistic Team Bath supporter could have foreseen a margin of 25 goals over the 2019 champions, Manchester Thunder. Both teams were undefeated going into the match, but they came out of it feeling very differently about their Superleague campaigns. After a close competitive start, Bath took a stranglehold of the game in the second quarter and never allowed Thunder back into the game from that point on. The rest of the competition has been put on notice by this performance, which stamps Team Bath as clearly the team to beat in 2021.
This was the complete team performance from Bath. There wasn’t a single weak link as they won basically right across the court. At the back, the defensive pairing of Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth applied enormous pressure to their opponents, and they were backed up well by the solid Imogen Allison at wing defence. As is to be expected, Serena Guthrie was seemingly everywhere, both in attack and defence, and Rachel Shaw just quietly went about her job effectively at wing attack. In the shooting circle, the combination of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Borger is clicking very nicely. Opposition teams watching this performance would have been struggling to find any weakness.
It’s amazing to think that the Bath defensive pairing in the circle consisted of one player returning from giving birth (Usoro-Brown) and another returning from a serious injury (Guscoth). It looked like they had never been out of the game as they worked so well together as a unit. So effective were they in continually shutting off avenues to goal and drying up the scoring opportunities, the frustrated Thunder feeders were often tempted into taking the wrong options. And when they did, Bath was ready to pounce on any error. The back four combined for a total of 16 possession gains, seven of them coming from Guscoth who had a field day at goal defence.
The transition play down court was seamless for Bath, and once the ball was in the attacking third, Guthrie, Shaw and Drakeford-Lewis combined to create chances seemingly at will. But it was Borger who was the star of the show. She put on a clinic of mobile goal shooter play. The movement, the positioning and the interplay between herself and Drakeford-Lewis was simply a delight to watch. And that’s before you even get to the accuracy. 39 from 39 for Borger, added to 17 from 17 for Drakeford-Lewis. Betsy Creak let the side down slightly in her time on court with 4 from 8, but altogether, a return of 60/64 completed a dominant display in the shooting circle.
What needs improvement?
Thunder is badly in need of a plan B at this stage. Having previously won three games against lesser opposition, this was the game that would prove just how effective the Thunder team would be against top level opponents. And they were found wanting. This match showed up just how valuable Kathryn Turner has been to the team for several years. With Turner having taken this season off to have a baby, there is a gap in the goal attack position. Ellie Cardwell, better known as a goal shooter, has been used mostly in the role, and try as she might, she came up short in this game up against the class of Layla Guscoth. Cardwell looks much more relaxed back at goal shooter. But then what does the team do with Joyce Mvula?
There is a similar problem for Thunder at wing attack. Again, this was a position that kiwi Liana Leota filled so well for several years before she left for Severn Stars last season. Thunder has three accomplished midcourters in Amy Carter, Caroline O’Hanlon and Laura Malcolm, all of them internationals, but none of them would consider wing attack as their best position. Thunder will have to somehow find an answer to these two vital attacking positions if they are to be considered a serious contender to the title this year.
Where was it won and lost?
Errors, gains, turnovers. This was a stark difference between the teams. Bath was able to pick up so much ball in this game, due not only to their own tremendous defence, but also the at times chaotic attacking approach of Thunder. Long cross court passes and lobs into the goal circle regularly went astray. In contrast, the Bath attack was measured and controlled and precise.
When was it won and lost?
The match began just as you might expect when you have a battle between two high profile undefeated sides. It was very even right up until the early stages of the second quarter. In fact, at the two-minute mark of the second period, Thunder led 15-13. It was then that an incredible change came over the game. Bath went on a run of eleven straight goals as Thunder made error after error. Six turnovers in a row went against the Manchester side, and Bath capitalised on all but one of them.
From having a two-goal lead, Thunder now found themselves nine goals down. They were shell shocked. Changes were made, but there was no coming back for them. Bath was now well on top, and they continued to dominate the rest of the match. In the last 34 minutes of the match, Bath outscored Thunder by an incredible 47-20.
How great that she did that!
Not only was her play outstanding in this game, but Kim Borger also showed outstanding sportsmanship. Towards the end of the third quarter, there was a collision just outside the Bath shooting circle. The player who came off worst was Thunder defender Rebecca Airey. After Bath scored the goal through Drakeford-Lewis, Borger quickly went to check on Airey, then helped her up and helped escort her to the sideline. It was all a part of what makes netball such a wonderful game.
Bath: GS Borger, GA Drakeford-Lewis, WA R.Shaw, C Guthrie, WD Allison, GD Guscoth, GK Usoro-Brown
Thunder: GS Mvula, GA Cardwell, WA Malcolm, C Carter, WD Airey, GD Dovey, GK Almond
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING 56 def SURREY STORM 37
Mary Cholhok 34/37 (92%)
Ella Clark 14/19 (74%)
Suzie Liverseige 7/7 (100%)
Lucy Parize 1/1 (100%)
TOTAL 56/64 (88%)
Gains 11 (Harvey 4)
Karyn Bailey 13/15 (87%)
Ellie Kelk 9/10 (90%)
Frankie Wells 8/11 (73%)
Sohie Kelly 7/10 (70%)
TOTAL 37/46 (80%)
Gains 7 (Humphrys, Kwangwa 2)
Player of the Match – Hannah Joseph (Lightning)
TEAM BATH 49 def SEVERN STARS 30
Kim Borger 29/30 (97%)
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis 16/17 (94%)
Betsy Creak 4/9 (44%)
TOTAL 49/56 (88%)
Gains 15 (Allison, Pavelin 4)
Georgia Rowe 22/23 (96%)
Paige Reed 8/15 (53%)
TOTAL 30/38 (79%)
Gains 12 (Herdman 7)
Player of the Match: Eboni Usoro-Brown (Bath)
WASPS 53 def MANCHESTER THUNDER 44
Ellie Cardwell 23/25 (92%)
Joyce Mvula 19/25 (76%)
Berri Neil 2/2 (100%)
TOTAL 44/52 (85%)
Gains 18 (Dovey, Almond 6)
Rachel Dunn 31/34 (91%)
Katie Harris 22/24 (92%)
TOTAL 53/58 (91%)
Gains 14 (Huckle 5)
Player of the Match: Fran Williams (Wasps)
STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 34 drew with SARACENS MAVERICKS 34
Emma Barrie 21/ 22 (95%)
Bethan Goodwin 8/11 (72%)
Niamh McCall 5/6 (83%)
TOTAL 34/39 (87%)
Gains 13 (Vinkhumbo 10)
Ine-Marie Venter 17/22 (77%)
Kadeen Corbin 14/15 (93%)
Chloe Essam 3/3 (100%)
Total 34/40 (85%)
Gains: 18 (Quashie 9)
Player of the Match – Towera Vinkhumbo (Sirens)
Match Report – Sirens v Mavericks
By Daisey Cotterill
For the first draw of the season it did not disappoint; it was a battle of the defences and much like a game of ping pong! From the outside many would have tipped Mavericks for the win, especially given their solid defensive unit being reunited with the return of Jo Trip along with the flare of their attack. The performance from Sirens was a clear illustration of their talent and how much they have built and developed season by season, it was great to see their fight and determination. Towera Vinkhumbo again showed her talent and along with her defensive unit played outstandingly, they seemed well drilled and ball hungry throughout!
For Mavericks the likes of Razia Quashie, Jodie Gibson and Jo Trip did not disappoint. This powerhouse of a defence worked hard from the first whistle. For Gibson, another great outing at wing defence showing all the true meaning of perseverance with her inspirational return to netball. Quashie came with several interceptions, tips and turnovers and in many ways kept Mavericks in the game. Unfortunately for Mavericks, who would appear a capable top four contender with the players they have, the confidence and determination of Sirens took them by surprise. It would be unfair if Vinkhumbo was not the first mentioned, as she read the game perfectly and Mavericks usual style of play was unable to survive during this game. Vinkhumbo caused all types of disruption for Mavericks and took advantage of every mistake, which, paired with Emily Nicholl’s excellent defensive pressure, meant that Sirens were able to break down Mavericks attack.
Sirens clinical style of play meant that from every interception or tip they could convert and punish Mavericks, throughout the court every player did their job and did it with absolute perfection. This quick, drilled performance from Sirens meant that Mavericks appeared stunned and were unable to adapt. Having shooters who are willing to turn and shoot at every opportunity allowed Sirens to show their talent and is another example of their growth this season.
The Sirens defensive unit of Vinkhumbo and Nicholl meant that they were able to unsettle the Mavericks circle, the interceptions these players were able to get and the disruption they were able to cause was one of the best sights all weekend. The style of play for Sirens appeared drilled and clinical, making Mavericks’ flare and lack of control a serious issue that Sirens were happy to clean up. It is important to note Sirens’ depth, the use of their bench meant they could bring something new to the court and rest players to ensure they kept momentum and threat level.
What needs improvement?
When looking at Mavericks, they always come with plenty of flare, but in this game it may have let them down slightly as they struggled to find the final connection in attack and were left in a state of confusion. The players seemed to lose control of their flare and energy which ultimately hurt Mavericks against the clinical play of Sirens. The confusion in attack as well as the rushed play was not a good pairing for Mavericks in this game. The fact they were unable to adapt to the clinical play of Sirens meant that long balls cross court continued and Sirens easily picked them off.
Where was the advantage lost?
With the first quarter finishing 8-12 to Mavericks and with the Corbin combo firing, along with the great play from defence, it seemed likely they would take the win. However, as the players took to court after the break, Mavericks appeared slightly confused and lost. The Sirens defence took advantage of this and began to fight back. In terms of performance, this game was all about Sirens’ pure determination and perseverance! They truly showcased their ability within this game and sent a warning out to all teams in the league.
Mavericks, although unable to adapt still showcased their talent within defence and this is what seemingly kept them in the game and able to fight off Sirens from taking the win. Quashie is an incredible defender every game and paired with her defensive unit this made it difficult at times for Sirens to reach their shooters, especially Emma Barrie when she was double marked. However, the patience of Sirens and their ability to play the ball around meant that they were able to bring it back level and keep on the fight throughout the game.
Where could it have been won?
With Mavericks unable to adapt and work out their attack, Sirens could have taken this game due to the momentum they had and how confident they were. The Mavericks defensive pressure was the only barrier to Siren’s victory and if they had potentially worked around this and been able to avoid Quashie’s presence they would have pulled ahead! That being said if Mavericks were able to control their play and be more clinical and poised, they could have simply regained control of the game. It really goes down to both teams being able to adapt, both were highly capable of the win but both lacked in specific areas at times. Credit has to be given for the contest both teams put up and how truly compelling and nail biting the entire game was.
How did she do that?
Vinkhumbo was a true force to be reckoned with during this game and really took advantage of the lack of control Mavericks had at many points during the game, her ability to read players and the game meant that she could pick off every pass from Mavericks making it extremely hard for them to penetrate into the circle. Mavericks were able to bring the ball through court from their defensive interceptions and tips, but unable to capitalise due to Vinkhumbo and Nicholl’s pressure, set up and presence.
Sirens: GS Barrie, GA Goodwin, WA McCleery, C Abernethy, WD Cullen, GD Nicholl, GK Vinkhumbo.
Mavericks: GS Venter, GA Corbin, WA Corbin, C Marshall, WD Gibson, GD Trip, GK Quashie.
LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING 52 def LONDON PULSE 40
Mary Cholhok 40/45 (89%)
Suzie Liverseidge 9/11 (82%)
Ella Clark 3/3 (100%)
TOTAL 52/59 (88%)
Gains 16 (Cobden 8)
Sigrid Burger 21/26 (81%)
Kira Rothwell 11/11 (100%)
Olivia Tchine 8/10 (80%)
Total 40/47 (85%)
Gains: 12 (Adio, Fadoju 4)
Player of the Match: Nat Panagarry (Lightning)
WASPS 53 def LEEDS RHINOS 41
Rachel Dunn 25/27 (93%)
Katie Harris 24/29 (83%)
Gazelle Allison 4/4 (100%)
TOTAL 53/60 (88%)
Gains 14 (Williams 4)
Sienna Rushton 27/32 (84%)
Rhea Dixon 11/18 (61%)
Brie Grierson 3/7 (43%)
Total 41/57 (72%)
Gains 11 (Oyesola 6)
Player of the Match: Iona Christian (Wasps)
LONDON PULSE 56 def CELTIC DRAGONS 29
Sigi Burger 22/24 (91%)
Kira Rothwell 14/15 (93%)
Olivia Tchine 10/15 (66%)
Lefebre Rademan 10/11 (90%)
Total 56/65 (86%)
Gains: 9 (Fadoju 4)
Amy Clinton 14/17 (82%)
Rebekah Robinson 15/16 (93%)
Annika Lee-Jones 0/1 (0%)
Morganne Dunn 0/0 (0%)
Total 29/34 (85%)
Gains 3 (Tyrrell 2)
Player of the Match: Funmi Fadoju (Pulse)
Match Report – Pulse v Dragons
By Eve Cobbett
Funmi Fadoju picked up the POM award and with 3 interceptions, 6 deflections and 4 turn-overs didn’t she deserve it. She hassled her WA for the whole time she was on court, picking up cross-court and long balls. The great work she did was demonstrated by allowing her to be taken off for Izzy Stibbs to get her debut, Pulse clearly confident enough that Fadoju had done enough to earn a rest. A special mention must also be given to Ellie Rattu who started the game at centre. Although unassuming, she worked hard and provided vital stability in the midcourt that Pulse had been lacking in the previous round. Finally, Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson, although on the losing side, proved their worth, playing with great shooting accuracy when they were allowed the opportunity.
This was summed up by coach Sam Bird’s post-match interview. She said it was ‘so nice to finally see the potential put into action’ and that was exactly what worked for Pulse tonight. Each player put out excellent individual displays and then capitalised on each other’s good work. This was evidenced in the work Zara Everitt, Lindsay Keable and Halimat Adio did to keep their players busy so Fadoju could eat up the cross-court balls Dragons were forced to play. It was also evident in the amount of loose balls Pulse picked up, showing how hungry they were to pick up the scraps and fight for possession.
What needs improvement?
Dragons can improve by ensuring each player is aware of their responsibilities and what is expected of them. Individually this team is full of talent, with Clinton and Robinson sinking shots when the ball gets to them and the defence picking up plenty of ball. However there seems to be issues growing connections between those talented individuals. Too many times in this game it was evident that Clinton was forced to tell Robinson how to set up to defend backlines, with players seemingly unaware of what their structures should be. As a team they also had 18 unforced errors, a number that demonstrates how much pressure Dragons are putting each other under. The number shows that Dragons are forcing each other to pass wayward balls due to a lack of options, and make mistakes due to stress. Dragons must tighten this up if they want to capitalise on their individual wins.
Where was it won?
Pulse won this game by putting out a convincing, full squad display over four quarters. The through-court defence from every player was immense for the full 48 minutes, causing pressure that resulted in multiple errors and turn-overs for Dragons. Fadoju summed it up in her player of the match interview, saying Pulse’s aim was to make ‘sure we can all hear each other’. This demonstrates the support each Pulse player gave each other tonight, from the bench to the coaching staff to the players on court. This game was won by the Pulse players finally rewarding each other for their good work, something that has been missing from their previous matches.
Where was it lost?
For Dragons, the game was lost in the midcourt. They consistently failed to bring the ball down court after their defence made vital interceptions. At one point in the second quarter, after a Dragons intercept, Robinson was forced to drive up to the 3rd line to help bring the ball down court, then bring the ball down in a number of give and goes and then had to attempt a shot. Again in quarter 3, Robinson made an interception at the 3rd line, brought the ball down court herself and then put up a shot. Whilst it was great play from the GA, with her energy and tenacity constantly impressing, it must be questioned why she was forced to do so much work in the first place? Dragons lost this game as the work rate was unevenly distributed across the team, with too many players doing too little.
How did she do that?
The ‘how did she do that’ moment once again goes to Kira Rothwell. In a moment that screamed confidence early on in the 3rd quarter Rothwell calmly played herself in off the post and put up the shot. It was slick and full of flair and showed how much Pulse were allowed to enjoy this game. 93% shooting accuracy (only 1 miss) isn’t bad either!
Pulse: GS Burger, GA Rothwell, WA Dekker, C Rattu, WD Fadoju, GD Everitt, GK Adio
Dragons: GS Clinton, GA Robinson, WA Rudland, C O’Dwyer, WD Jones, GD Tyrrell, GK Lee-Jones
Umpires: Gary Burgess and Kate Mann
LEEDS RHINOS 43 def STRATHCLYDE SIRENS 36
Sienna Rushton 36/42 (86%)
Rhea Dixon 7/11 (64%)
TOTAL 43/53 (81%)
Gains 10 (Kindred 7)
Emma Barrie 33/39 (85%)
Beth Goodwin 3/9 (33%)
Niamh McCall 0/0
TOTAL 36/48 (75%)
Gains 8 (Cullen, Nicholl, McPhail, Vinkhumbo 2)
Player of the Match: Sienna Rushton (Rhinos)
(after Round 6)
LIGHTNING . 7 . 18pts . +110
BATH . 5 . 15pts . +85
WASPS . 6 . 12pts . +48
MAVERICKS . 5 . 10pts . 11
SIRENS . 6 . 10pts . +4
THUNDER . 5 . 9pts . +43
RHINOS . 6 . 9pts . -2
STORM . 7 . 6pts . -36
PULSE . 5 . 3pts . -19
STARS . 6 . 3pts . -102
DRAGONS . 6 . 0pts . -142
Vicki Oyesola, Leeds Rhinos – limited court availability due to ongoing illness
Lynsey Gallagher, Strathclyde Sirens – undergoing surgery for her lateral meniscus and hopes to return before the end of the season
Donnell Wallam, Leeds Rhinos – fractured radius bone, hoping to return in a few weeks
Tuaine Keenan, Leeds Rhinos – ankle/calf injury will be out for a number of weeks
Fi Toner, Leeds Rhinos – achilles injury out for a number of weeks
Emma Magee, Surrey Storm – ankle ligament damage in Round 1 and will return in a number of weeks
Sunday 28th February
12 noon Manchester Thunder v Celtic Dragons
2pm London Pulse v Saracens Mavericks
4pm Surrey Storm v Team Bath
6pm Strathclyde Sirens v Wasps
Monday 1st March
5.15 Team Bath v Strathclyde Sirens
7.15 Leeds Rhinos v Severn Stars
Catchup on the latest Vitality Netball Superleague news, and hear from the players and coaches via our friends at The Netball Show.