VNSL 2021: Round 5/6 – Friday & Saturday wraps

A BLOCKBUSTER Round 5/6 of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action began on Friday evening, with two significantly different results opening the weekend following a week off last weekend. It did not stop there though, with three Saturday encounters setting the tone for the remainder of the double round, with a couple of teams asserting themselves and announcing themselves as the teams to beat this season. In the Friday/Saturday edition of our VNSL wraps, we take a look at the first five matches of the huge round.


Severn Stars (49) defeated Surrey Storm (46)

Player of the Match: Paige Reed (Severn Stars)

The weekend opened with a huge matchup between Severn Stars and Surrey Storm, with the Stars narrowly pipping the Storm at the post for their first win of the season. Under a mountain of pressure from the get-go, the Stars held up under the Storm onslaught and consistently stepped up to the bouts of form from the Storm to reign supreme by three goals after leading at each break. Both sides were highly accurate in the encounter, missing just six goal apiece, but it was the unforced error count (10-16) that really hurt the Storm with the side wasting crucial turnover ball and unable to capitalise on opportunities.

For the Stars, it was player of the match Paige Reed that set the court alight with 17 goals, piling on the pressure both in and around the circle whilst partner in crime Georgia Rowe was huge with 29 goals of her own in the tight battle, holding strong and giving Reed an easy feeding option. Defensively the side struggled to maintain cleanliness, rotating the likes of Adi Bolakoro, Iman Thomas, Malysha Kelly and Lucy Herdman through the back circle, but overall the unit produced a solid performance to put doubt in the Storm’s goalers and feeders. It was the lack of support in the circle that shot the Storm in the foot, with Karyn Bailey (33 goals from 36 attempts) forced to carry the load, although the efforts of Yas Parsons, Emily Gulvin and Mikki Austin were astronomical finding the tall timber at the post again and again.

Team Bath (60) defeated Manchester Thunder (35)

Player of the Match: Kim Borger (Team Bath)

The undefeated Team Bath came out with a point to prove in their return to the court, with a huge 25-goal victory over fellow undefeated side Manchester Thunder. Given Bath was coming back from two weeks away from the court it seemed like the Thunder would have the upper hand, but a tight battle in the first set the tone as neither side would let up the intensity. But consistency is key, and Bath proved how strong they are as they piled on three-straight 16-goal quarters and kept Manchester to under 10 goals in the remaining three terms. Bath’s ability to take chances and capitalise well and truly showcased their hunt on the ball, creating something out of nothing time and time again and leaving no stone unturned as they had an answer for everything Thunder threw at them.

Player of the match deservedly went to Australian Kim Borger, with the goal shooter piling on a whopping 39 goals as playmaker Sophie Drakeford-Lewis piled on 17 of her own. The two shot at an impressive 100 per cent accuracy, showcasing how easily they could maintain control under pressure from the likes of Emma Dovey, Kerry Almond and Rebekah Airey, with Dovey and Airey carrying injuries off the court. The defensive combination from Bath proved crucial once more with Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth continuing to shine, and keeping Thunder targets Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell to just 15 goals apiece.


Surrey Storm (37) defeated by Loughborough Lightning (56)

Player of the match: Hannah Joseph (Loughborough Lightning)

Loughborough Lightning impressed once again claiming a 19-goal victory over the Storm to keep a firm grip on top spot on the ladder. It has been a difficult round for the Storm who have struggled to find their mojo, with the Lightning taking full advantage of their opponents inconsistencies across the court to capitalise especially under the post. Lightning made their intentions abundantly clear from the opening term of play pushing out to a seven-goal lead and looking to extend on that buffer at each turn. The defensive combination of Beth Cobden, Samantha May and Alice Harvey was causing all sorts of trouble for Bailey and Frankie Wells with youngster Sophie Kelly also injected into the action in hope to shakeup the attacking unit.

Cobden’s combination with captain Nat Panagarry was unstoppable as the duo paired seamlessly through the centre and even with a number of changes made across the board the Lightning did not skip a beat. The shooting combination of Mary Cholhok and Ella Clark was another main problem for the Storm with Leah Middleton drawing a wealth of attention from the umpire thanks to her 17 penalties while Felisitus Kwangwa had patches of brilliance but could not quell the Lightning pair. Cholhok finished with an impressive 34 goals even after spending time on the bench while Clark managed 14. Plenty of fresh legs hit the court for the Lightning throughout their clash with all 12 players getting a chance to get some valuable minutes as goal keeper Annabel Roddy made her first appearance for the season and Suzie Liverseidge provided an element of speed and unpredictability to the shooting line-up. Player of the match, Hannah Joseph had the ball on a string and created a number of attacking forays with her precise ball placement and overall netball smarts in what was another strong outing for Loughborough.

Team Bath (49) defeated Severn Stars (30)

Player of the match: Eboni Usoro-Brown (Team Bath)

After dismantling Wasps only the day before, Team Bath backed up their impressive performance with another commanding performance over the lowly Severn Stars, making it five wins straight. The Stars won their opening encounter of the round and their first for the season but simply did not have the legs or star power to stick with Bath who exploited their opponents in every way possible. Bath made a couple of changes from their previous outing with Betsy Creak getting the nod in at goal shooter with Jess Shaw and Tash Pavelin also earning a starting position and while it took some time for the connections to solidify Bath still had all the answers. The influence of Borger was undeniable with the goal shooter introduced into the game in the second term and scoring within the first 20 seconds highlighting her accuracy and netball nous.

The Stars got back to within four goals midway through the second term with the likes of Rowe putting in the hard yards under the post, but that was a fleeting moment as Bath put their foot down to reclaim the ascendancy. The defensive pressure from Bath was immense keeping their opponents to a mere 10 goals at half time while establishing a 14-goal lead themselves. The presence of Usoro-Brown down back was paying dividends for the yellow and blue with the goal keeper putting up a wall and picking off passes with ease. Her partnership with Pavelin (four intercepts) and Imogen Allison out the front nullified the influence of Bethan Dyke and Lucy Harris as Bath cruised to an easy win.

Manchester Thunder (44) defeated by Wasps Netball (53)

Player of the match:

Backing up from a hefty defeat, Wasps handed Manchester Thunder their their second loss of the season thanks to their 53-44 goal performance. It was an even start to the game with only two goals separating both sides at quarter time before the Wasps started to pull ahead in the second term with the defensive efforts from Fran Williams and Josie Huckle working wonders. Their ability to shut down the attacking forays and quell the influence of Mvula and Cardwell was imperative however that did not last long with the Thunder shooting duo able to pick themselves up in the second half and cause a real nuisance. Mvula finished with 19 goals while Cardwell slotted 23 as Laura Malcolm plied her trade in wing attack to work her side back into the contest.

The powerhouse combination of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris were at their dominant best against Thunder with the two seeming to have the ball on a string and finding a wealth of space inside the goal circle. Dunn led the way with 31 goals, only missing the three shots while Harris was just as accurate to post nailing 22 out of her 24 attempts. Almond and Dovey worked in overdrive particularly in the second half to reduce the scoring impact of the Wasps’ shooters, levelling the playing field. Sophia Candappa was electric through the midcourt and around circle edge to feed the ball into the circle with great ease combating the likes of Airey.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments