VNSL Round 7 preview: Rhinos face bookends

LEEDS Rhinos will have double duty in the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) this weekend, with just five games played across Round 7. The Rhinos feature in both of them, against the teams at opposite ends of the ladder in Manchester Thunder and Severn Stars. Elsewhere, a bottom three clash between Celtic Dragons and Wasps Netball promises to be a thriller, whilst he Saracens Mavericks will look to snap a two-game losing streak against Strathclyde Sirens, and the in-form London Pulse hosts Surrey Storm. Reigning premiers Loughborough Lightning, and Team Bath have the bye this weekend.

Though Round 7 might only feature five games, Round 8 begins Sunday, with a preview coming prior to that round for those matches over Sunday and Monday.

  • Team
  • Severn Stars
  • Leeds Rhinos

Friday, March 11 @ 7:00pm GMT
University of Worchester Arena

In the first of two Friday night clashes, the last placed Severn Stars will try and get back on the winners list at home against an up-and-down Leeds Rhinos outfit. The Stars are languishing in eleventh after six straight losses, whilst the Rhinos have not quite found consistent form as of yet, with three wins from five games, but they did win last start against the Wasps, albeit by a goal. Both these sides would see the game as winnable based on the opposite’s form, which could make this a fascinating contest. Given the Rhinos take on Manchester Thunder tomorrow, player management will also be something to keep an eye on.

Vicki Oyesola has been strong in defence for the Rhinos this season, collecting eight intercepts and 16 deflections, teaming up well with Tuaine Keenan in the defensive goal circle. They will look to contain Paige Reed (165 goals) and Katie Harris (80), with Issy Eaton (67) providing a strong third foil there. Liana Leota is a crucial player for the Stars, and no doubt Rhinos leader Jade Clarke will be keen to take control of the midcourt to limit Leota’s influence.

  • Team
  • Wasps Netball
  • Cardiff Dragons

Friday, March 11 @ 7:30pm
Coventry Building Society Arena

Fresh off their first win of the season, Celtic Dragons will be hoping to go back-to-back against a Wasps Netball side that has not won in the past three starts. The Dragons have had a couple of heavy losses this season, but for the most part have been competitive, whilst the Wasps have just not found their rhythm in season 2022 just yet. The winner of this game will take ninth spot and just edge closer to the teams battling for finals spots.

Wasps still look to veteran shooter Rachel Dunn (139 goals from 146 attempts), though Gezelle Allison (71 from 90) has been in good form of late. Lucy Parize plays a great supporting role in that goal attack bib, whilst Josie Huckle (27 deflections, 11 intercepts and 22 turnovers) has been superb up the other end of the court. The defensive combination of Annabel Roddy (15 intercepts, eight deflections and 22 turnovers) and Shaquanda Greene-Noel (19 intercepts, 11 deflections and 28 turnovers) have teamed up well this year, whilst shooter Georgia Rowe has put up 143 goals this season.

  • Team
  • London Pulse
  • Surrey Storm

Saturday, March 12 @ 2:00pm
Copper Box Arena

In the first of three Saturday afternoon clashes, the red-hot London Pulse hosts Surrey Storm at Copper Box Arena. The Pulse are on a three-game winning streak, and have won four of their past five games, and the only loss in that time was a heartbreaking two-goal defeat at the hands of Saracens Mavericks. The Storm on the other hand have shown signs, but only have the two wins to take from it. They upset Team Bath back in Round 4, and did not disgrace themselves against Loughborough Lightning, before beating Leeds Rhinos and pushing Strathclyde Sirens all the way. This game will be tough, but the Storm have some quality players to watch.

Peace Proscovia has been near unstoppable in her return from the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) to the VNSL, and she has shouldered the bulk of the scoring at the post. The midcourt duo of Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin are always tricky to contain with their hard-running and feeding, whilst Leah Middleton (12 intercepts, 20 deflections and 27 turnovers has been an impressive player in defence. Speaking of defence, Funmi Fadoju has been a huge reason the Pulse have gone so well this season, securing 20 intercepts, 39 deflections and 38 turnovers in a remarkable year thus far. Up the other end, the combination of Olivia Tchine (226 goals) and Sacha McDonald (21) just get the job done, whilst Zara Everitt has been critical in midcourt.

  • Team
  • Saracens Mavericks
  • Strathclyde Sirens

Saturday, March 12 @ 3:00pm
University of Essex Arena

After suffering back-to-back losses to the top two sides, Saracens Mavericks will be out to bounce back against a really solid Strathclyde Sirens outfit. The Mavericks came within three goals of Manchester Thunder in Round 5 before producing their worst performance of the season in a 24-goal loss to Loughborough Lightning last round. They are far better than that and will be hungry to prove it in front of home fans here, though the Sirens grabbed their second win last start with a two-goal victory over Surrey Storm after competitive efforts against the Lightning and Thunder.

Strathclyde’s defensive combination of Towera Vinkhumbo and Emily Nicholl is incredibly solid, combining for 28 intercepts, 30 deflections and 55 turnovers this season. Up the other end, Bethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall have been outstanding for the Sirens. Ine-Mari Venter has certainly had an impact since joining the Mavericks, putting up 259 goals, whilst Kadeen Corbin has earned a couple of Player of the Match honours this year, and Jodie Gibson in defence has been another impressive player.

  • Team
  • Manchester Thunder
  • Leeds Rhinos

Saturday, March 12 @ 5:30pm
AO Arena

Completing Round 7 of VNSL action is the top of the table Manchester Thunder coming in against a Leeds Rhinos side that will be coming off a clash with the Stars the day before. The Rhinos will be likely to have won that contest and feel pretty confident coming into the clash, but the Thunder have been unstoppable this season in terms of wins. However two of the last three weeks the Thunder have looked somewhat beatable, with a narrow three-goal win over Saracens Mavericks and then a come-from-behind victory over Team Bath by just four goals. After having a barnstorming start to the 2022 season, the Thunder will be looking to steady against a side outside the top four.

The duo of Eleanor Cardwell (225 goals from 250 attempts) and Joyce Mvula (233 from 261) are the best one-two goal circle punch in the league, which will require the Rhinos defence to really be on its game. The Thunder do not have any holes in their lineup, with Shadine Van der Merwe and Natalie Metcalf bringing both SSN and international experience to the starting seven, and Kerry Almond being a rock at goal keeper.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments