VNSL 2021: Round 5/6 – Sunday & Monday wraps

VITALITY Netball Superleague (VNSL) Round 5/6 continued on the weekend, with a couple of sides taking the court for the first time this round and the first draw for the year playing out between Strathclyde Sirens and Saracens Mavericks. London Pulse finally got its name in lights, no longer sitting winless after a victory over Celtic Dragons, whilst Wasps Netball backed up a strong Saturday showing with another excellent win to lift their standings. In the Sunday/Monday edition of our VNSL wraps, we take a look at the last five matches of the double round.


Strathclyde Sirens (34) drew Saracens Mavericks (34)

Player of the Match: Towera Vinkhumbo (Strathclyde Sirens)

One of the games of the season so far played out between the hungry Sirens and feisty Mavericks, with the two sides finding little separation in the tight battle and the matchup ending with the intriguing drawn result. Whilst the Mavericks seemed to overall have more of an influence on the scoreboard, leading at all three changes, a great final quarter effort and six-goal turnaround from the Sirens saw the side lift in intensity and steal a vital win off the Mavs in the dying stages of the match.

Emma Barrie and Bethan Goodwin well and truly stood tall in the absence of Lynsey Gallagher at the post, with Nicola McCleeryBeth Dix and Gia Abernethy all playing a vital role feeding ball into the circle and away from the hands of Raz Quashie, Jodie Gibson and Jo Trip. It was a relatively accurate showing from both sides as the Sirens put up 34 goals from 39 attempts compared to the Mavericks’ 34 from 40, with player of the match Towera Vinkhumbo wreaking havoc lining up on South African import Ine-Mari Venter (17 goals). Vinkhumbo (eight intercepts) and Quashie (six) set the back courts alight, dominating from the outset in the exciting tussle. The close finish was credit to the Sirens’ never say-die attitude, with the side now having piled on three wins and one draw over their past four encounters in a huge start to their season, compared to the Mavericks who are seemingly still working through their developing connections.

Loughborough Lightning (52) defeated London Pulse (40)

Player of the Match: Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning)

Despite a fast start from the thus far winless Pulse, Loughborough Lightning produced another classy performance to well and truly dominate the contest and collect their sixth straight win. Sitting atop the ladder despite their Round 1 loss to Team Bath, the Lightning have very little to complain about with another consistent four quarter performance on the board, composed under pressure and running away with a hand 12-goal margin against the hungry, yet luckless Pulse.

Mary Cholhok had the ball on a silver platter throughout the contest, piling on a whopping 40 goals credit to an inspirational performance from player of the match Nat Panagarry and Hannah Joseph who combined effortlessly on circle edge. Even a penalty-heavy Sam May could not ruin the Lightning’s party on court, continuously and creatively running down the Pulse, who despite struggling to maintain pressure in the second half, managed to put out a solid performance, especially early on. Kira Rothwell continued her playmaking and accurate ways with 11 goals to assist South African spearhead Sigi Burger, while Olivia Tchine put up eight of her own. The Lightning’s midcourt defensive effort was critical, forcing turnover ball well before it had a chance to hit circle edge.

Wasps Netball (53) defeated Leeds Rhinos (41)

Player of the Match: Iona Christian (Wasps Netball)

The final match of Sunday’s proceedings saw the Wasps produce a performance reminiscent of their 2019 form, dominating Leeds Rhinos from start to finish for a 12-goal victory. Despite a comeback effort from the Rhinos in the second to whittle the margin down to five goals, it was not enough to really scare the Wasps as they ran away with the confidence-boosting performance and 30-goal second half proving they have still got it.

Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn were magnificent to post, unafraid of the Rhinos’ defensive efforts and piling on 25 and 24 goals respectively, while player of the match Iona Christian continued her excellent form alongside captain Sophia Candappa, propelling ball into the circle and finding space in attack with ease. While Fran Williams and Josie Huckle were a fraction penalty heavy, piling on 28 penalties between them, it did the job as the Rhinos were rendered slightly more inaccurate than usual, with Sienna Rushton (27 goals from 32 attempts), Rhea Dixon (11 from 18) and Brie Grierson (three from seven) overawed by the physicality. That being said, Vicki Oyesola was a menace defensively and Jade Clarke relentlessly asserted herself on the contest, proving this Rhinos squad will not give up.


London Pulse (56) defeated Celtic Dragons (29)

Player of the Match: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)

London Pulse got its first win on the board for season 2021 with a comprehensive 27-goal victory over Celtic Dragons, with the Welsh-based Dragons’ day going from bad to worse following a Round 2 disciplinary sanction handed down on Monday afternoon. While the 500 pound fine and deduction of points was plenty to be disappointed about, the Dragons also struggled to capitalise on chance against the Pulse who flew out of the gates, disrupting the rhythm of the match and keeping the Dragons to four single digit quarters – shooting just three goals to 20 in the second.

Player of the match Funmi Fadoju continued her stellar form with another consistent performance, having an answer for everything the Dragons attack threw at her. Showcasing her versatility in at wing defence, the young gun forced errors and changes aplenty as she disrupted play, slotting in seamlessly beside Zara EverittHalimat Adio and Lindsay Keable, as the four players combined for seven intercepts and 11 deflections. All four Pulse goalers had their time in the sun too, with Burger topscoring with 22 goals from 24 attempts, as Rothwell (14 from 15), Lefebre Rademan (10 from 11) and Tchine (10 from 15) showcased their goaling nous. For the Dragons, solid 14 and 15 goal efforts from Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson just were not enough, with the midcourt well and truly outclassed with 18 unforced errors to the Pulse’s six.

Leeds Rhinos (43) defeated by Strathclyde Sirens (36)

Player of the Match: Sienna Rushton (Leeds Rhinos Netball)

Leeds Rhinos put their third win on the board for season 2021 with a hard-fought victory over an in-form Strathclyde Sirens side, winning by seven goals in a close see-sawing contest. With the first and third quarters seeing the two sides go goal-for-goal, it was only the second and fourth that the Rhinos really appeared to control proceedings. Whilst the Sirens led the intercept tally (8-5) and had four less penalties, they were marginally less accurate to post and produced 16 unforced errors to the Rhinos’ 12. The Rhinos also tallied a whopping 17 deflections in the victory, showcasing just how much they were willing to fight for the win, which was their first since Round 3.

Rushton was a force to be reckoned with for the Rhinos, piling on a whopping 36 goals at 84 per cent accuracy and also collecting five offensive rebounds. Dixon was clean out the front, playing more of a playmaking and assisting role with her seven goals, as Grierson, Clarke and Amelia Hall had an impact out the front, serving ball on a silver platter. The combination of Oyesola (two intercepts, five deflections) and Paige Kindred (two intercepts, eight deflections) down back impressed, also only picking up seven penalties apiece. For the Sirens, the lack of Gallagher out the front hurt much more than it did during their draw with the Mavs on Sunday, with Barrie forced to carry the load with 33 goals from 39 attempts whilst Goodwin (three from nine) was well and truly shut down by Oyesola and Michelle Magee out the front.

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