McCall stars as Scotland go back-to-back

SCOTLAND has gone back-to-back over Barbados with another impressive win in the second and final test of the series. The Thistles backed up their 43-goal game one win over the Bajan Gems with an almost as impressive 39-goal triumph in the game overnight. The danger signs were there from the first term once again, but to Barbados’ credit the Bajan Gems were more competitive throughout the contest, but the lights out shooting from Niamh McCall helped drive Scotland to victory.

SCOTLAND 19 | 16 | 20 | 19 (74)
BARBADOS 4 | 10 | 12 | 9 (35)

The sides entered the match largely as they had started in game one, with Scotland unsurprisingly happy with their dominant first half last week and not looking to change a winning formula. Barbados finished the match stronger than they started in game one, so opted to start Faye Agard in goal shooter this time, with dead-eye shooter Shonica Wharton instead on the bench.

Scotland out did its first quarter from the last game of 17-5 to go to a massive 19-4, but remarkably it could have been even more one-sided. Despite Barbados’ best efforts to apply pressure, Scotland was forcing turnovers and erros galore, and McCall and Emma Barrie were feasting on the results. Once agin the combination of Hannah Leighton and Iona Christian through midcourt was impressive, whilst the experience of Sabreena Smith at wing attack for the Bajan Gems added something different.

The other major change was Stephien Shepherd in just her second cap, starting in centre on the in-form Leighton. Whilst Christian had the better of that duel, Shepherd was able to get vital court time. In the opening minute, the scores were tied at 1-1 after McCall and Agard scored at their respective ends. From then on, the Thistles would score a whopping 16 consecutive goals to 17-1 over the first 10 and a half minutes. Leighton was outstanding, Christian provided quick hands, and Barrie was using her body to block defenders and allow McCall to finish off.

Shonette Azore-Bruce had played well on Barrie with greater bodywork, whilst Tonisha Rock-Yaw was lively in wing defence forcing turnovers for her side. Unfortunately up the other end, Smith would end up going down awkwardly and clutching her knee with 3:27 left on the clock, and Vanessa Bobb needing to replace her on court. The crowd applauded as Smith was carried off in the hands of the trainers, and Barbados found a spark late, scoring 3-2 in the final few minutes, but Scotland was still dominant with a 19-4 lead.

The first quarter really set up the win, but the second term was the most even of the entire series with Barbados scoring 10 goals to Scotland’s 16. The decision to move Latonia Blackman into goal attack to join Wharton – who came on late in the first term – was a good one. Meanwhile Akeena Stoute was brought on in goal defence to replace Blackman up that end. The pressure Barbados applied was forcing mistakes from the Thistles, though the work of Emily Nicholl in defence was helping drive in transition, and McCall was finishing it off in attack.

The move of Agard to be switched into goalkeeper also worked in Barbados’ favour, with her ability to push off Barrie and disrupt the teenager’s body positioning key. A last second goal from Barrie meant Scotland took a 35-14 lead into half-time, but the 16-10 second term showed Barbados was starting to click. If the Bajan Gems could clean up their feeds into the circle or long passes across court, they could certainly worry sides.

Scotland coach Tamsin Greenway was not going to rest on her laurels after Barbados took back some of the fight in the second term. Caitlin Pringle came on at goalkeeper, Sarah Macphail went into wing defence and Nicola McCleery slotted into wing attack. Meanwhile the partnership of Wharton and Blackman continued to pay dividends for Barbados, though in the scheme of it, Scotland was still easily on top, heading into the final break with a 55-26 lead following a 20-12 term, but Barbados had again topped its personal best quarter.

In the last quarter it was evident the back-to-back matches were starting to wear down players, and both sides rotated around with Bethan Goodwin replacing Barrie, and then young talent Kalea Stagg coming on for her second international match in at goal attack. McCall received a rapturous applause from the Glasgow crowd for her outstanding performance. Stagg’s enthusiasm and speed to cover ground was terrific to see, though the Bajan Gems defenders opted to double-team Goodwin and let Stagg do as she pleased. Just to prove she could be a threat, Stagg confidently nailed a goal with 5:38 on the clock

In the end the game finished with a 19-9 term in favour of the Thistles, with Scotland winning 74-35, once again proving a dominant force. Whilst McCall and Nicholl starred up their respective ends, Leighton was again impressive through the midcourt. For Barbados, Wharton and Blackman is the goaler combination to go with, while Azore-Bruce and Rock-Yaw showed some nice talent, and Shepherd showcase some nice upside for her second game.

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