VNSL 2021: Round 8 – Sunday wrap

ROUND 8 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) saw Team Bath make it eight wins straight with another strong performance to solidify their position atop of the table. Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning and Wasps all claimed wins despite being challenged throughout their encounters.

Manchester Thunder (48) defeated Leeds Rhinos (41)

Player of the match: Laura Malcolm (Manchester Thunder)

It was an action-packed game that saw neither side take a backwards step as the Thunder and Rhinos looked to assert themselves on the derby. Leeds skipped out to a handy lead at quarter time with their accuracy to post and overall defensive pressure limiting the Thunder’s movement. But the Thunder are a quality outfit and once again proved that despite missing a couple of handy cogs such as Emma Dovey and Berri Neil. A flick of the switch in the second saw Manchester turn things around, doubling the Rhinos’ eight goals scored to pile on 16 of their own. However that was short lived as the Rhinos fought back after half time to really grind out the game. Both sides were not willing to give an inch, working in overdrive to regain possession and create attacking forays in a game dictated by defence. With a tick over five minutes to play scores were level at 40 goals apiece before some defensive magic from both Laura Malcolm and Caroline O’Hanlon enabled the Thunder to break away and secure the win.

The game was more of a defensive slog with the likes of Kerry Almond controlling the airwaves down back for Thunder. She amassed eight deflections and one intercept while partner in crime Rebekah Airey displayed her defensive tendencies picking up five deflections. Malcolm was a real livewire at home in wing defence for the Thunder using her quick feet to dart around circle edge and pick up three deflections and an intercept while O’Hanlon and Amy Carter were electric through the middle. The combination of Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell were put through their paces as Vicki Oyesola and Paige Kindred worked to confuse the space and reel in intercepts. Tuaine Keenan provided a spark down back for the Rhinos and while Sienna Rushton spearheaded the attack with a game-high 31 goals, her accuracy let her down only converting at 70 per cent.

London Pulse (29) defeated by Team Bath (51)

Player of the match: Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)

Team Bath once again walked away with the chocolates to keep their unblemished record intact and put their hand up as serious premiership contenders. Keeping their opponents to a mere eight goals in the opening half it was clear that Team Bath only had one intention and that was to win. Their silky ball movement and all-round smothering defensive pressure was scintillating and simply unstoppable, however the win was marred by a suspected Achilles injury to star Imogen Allison who went down in the first few minutes of the game. Pulse were forced to continuously tinker with their line-up in search of a winning combination but were unable to combat both the offensive and defensive pressure stemming from a confidence and slick Bath side.

All four goalers made their way onto the court for Bath with the starting duo of Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis impressing thanks to their 100 per cent accuracy. Burger led the way with 20 goals straight while Betsy Creak and Hannah Passmore played a strong cameo role with 11 and seven goals respectively. Through the midcourt Serena Guthrie was her damaging best but it was the defensive pressure that was causing real headaches as the Pulse simply could not create any separation and were constantly pinned down thanks to the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown, Layla Guscoth and Tash Pavelin. Guscoth had a game to remember amassing seven intercepts and six deflections to nullify the Pulse attackers with Bath’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing Pulse shooting unit of Sigi Burger, Kira Rothwell, Olivia Tchine and Lefebre Rademan beyond impressive.

Loughborough Lightning (43) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (38)

Player of the match: Jasmin Odeogberin (Loughborough Lightning)

The Lightning and Sirens engaged in a tight battle as the two sides refused to give an inch. The Sirens got the jump early, establishing a five-goal lead to start proceedings before the Lightning found their groove to bite back in the second and stem the bleeding to level the scores at 19 goals apiece at half time. Loughborough maintained that level of intensity for the second half as they outscored the Sirens in the third and fourth, limiting their opponents to eight and 11 goals respectively. But it was not easy with Strathclyde contesting every pass and making the Lightning earn their goals.

Mary Cholhok was a staple under the post, using her height and long reach to pull in the high floating passes and dominate posting 33 goals, although she lacked her usual accuracy to post with 12 misses to her name. Suzie Liverseidge accompanied Cholhok in goals managing to add 10 to the tally while the midcourt pairing of Nat Panagarry and Beth Cobden was once again reliable with the latter managing four deflections and two intercepts. Down in defence Jasmin Odeogberin impressed with her tenacity and capacity to shut down the drive of Bethan Goodwin out in goal attack, eventually forcing her from the court. Lightning teammates, Samantha May and Alice Harvey were important in quelling the influence of the Sirens goalers with Harvey recording seven deflections and an intercept. Although they did not get the win, Emma Barrie was a force to be reckoned with, constantly commanding the ball thanks to her 23 goals while up the other end Emily Nicholl and Towera Vinkhumbo combined to put up a strong defensive wall. The duo managed a combined three intercepts and five deflections but it was not enough to worry the Lightning as they continued their stellar season.

Wasps Netball (52) defeated Celtic Dragons (38)

Player of the match: Amy Flanagan (Wasps Netball)

Wasps notched up their fifth win for the season leaving the Celtic Dragons winless at the bottom of the ladder. Despite a fast start in the opening term, the Dragons were unable to maintain that level of intensity and desperation as the Wasps looked to their bench and tinkered with their line-up to claim some ascendancy to will back the game. It was a much more composed and clinical performance from the Wasps in the second quarter, which saw the higher ranked side take some control and limit the Dragons’ ball movement down the court. They steadily overtook the Dragons and then powered past them as the game went on with their experience and solidified connections coming to the fore.

It was a highly defensive game from both sides with Amy Flanagan leading the way out in wing defence for the Wasps with her shadowing movement around circle edge important in stopping the easy transition down court from the Dragons. She racked up eight deflections, pairing nicely with both Fran Williams and Josie Huckle as the trio picked off errant passes with the latter two reeling in a combined two intercepts. Inside the goal circle Rachel Dunn was the go-to girl thanks to her 33 goals, with Katie Harris also managing to have an influence with her 13 goals while Gezelle Allison made a cameo appearance piling on six goals and two intercepts highlighting her defensive capabilities. Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson did the damage under the post for the Dragons but struggled with accuracy missing a combined 15 shots. Clare Jones was also important through the centre, plying her trade in both attack and defence.

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