VNSL 2021: Round 4 – Sunday wrap

THE beginning of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) Round 4 saw a number of blowouts as the Thunder, Wasps and Lightning flexed their muscles as serious contenders for the 2021 season. Two more matches will take place to complete the round, with the Lightning and Stars handed a chance to add another win to their respective tallies.

Severn Stars (27) defeated by Manchester Thunder (60)

Player of the match: Joyce Mvula (Manchester Thunder)

The Thunder were on from the get-go nailing six consecutive goals to put the Stars on the back foot immediately. Playing with a sense of urgency and intensity, the Thunder simply could not be stopped as they looked to exploit the Stars defensive unit with both Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell having a day out at the post. The slick ball movement through the midcourt provided Manchester with plenty of opportunities to enter the attacking third while effectively bypassing the Stars’ defensive efforts. Stifling the Severn Stars in attack, Thunder opened up a commanding half time lead to create an 18-goal lead and did not back down in the second half. It was a difficult outing for the Stars with the side only adding 13 goals to their half time tally while the Thunder continued their merry way. Youngster Issy Eaton made her debut with the 16-year-old pulling on the goal shooter bib while the absence of Georgia Rowe was well and truly felt as the Stars struggled to score.

Strathclyde Sirens (35) defeated London Pulse (30)

Player of the match: Nicola McCleery (Strathclyde Sirens)

It was a low-scoring affair but in the end it was the Sirens that reversed their fortunes claiming a five goal win. The Sirens were determined to right their wrongs and made up for their errors from past matches, working in overdrive to move the ball down into attack and score. It was an even start to proceedings as only a goal separated the two sides at quarter time before Sirens kicked it up a gear in the second quarter to pile on 11 goals to eight. Taylor Cullen and Emily Nicholl dug in deep to reduce the influence of key playmakers for the Pulse such as speed demon Adean Thomas and Kira Rothwell around the circle. Searching for answers, Pulse tinkered with their line-up both inside the goal circle and down back with Funmi Fadoju and Lindsay Keable bringing the heat in defence to try and upset the attacking flow for the Sirens. The Pulse struggled to get going in the third only managing four goals and while their scoring intensified in the fourth it was not enough to worry the Sirens, who went on to win their third straight game for the first time in the franchise’s history.

The combination of Emma Barrie and Bethan Goodwin was undeniable with the two linking up with great ease and creating a wealth of space in attack. Barrie slotted 21 goals at 92 per cent while Goodwin chimed in with 14 goals. Down back Towera Vinkhumbo starred for the Sirens reeling in five intercepts, one rebound and three deflections highlighting her overall defensive prowess as Cullen also amassed an intercept and deflection. Player of the match, Nicola McCleery was classy through the midcourt for the Sirens. Sigi Burger was the topscorer for the Pulse nailing 13 goals with Assaindey Olivia Tinche also chiming in with 10 goals. Halimat Adio influenced the contest while on court with one intercept and two deflections.

Wasps Netball (47) defeated Surrey Storm (33)

Player of the match: Iona Christian (Wasps Netball)

Despite collecting the win, the Wasps were marred with injury to star goaler, Rachel Dunn with the experienced head going down before half time. It was a strong performance by the Wasps who were forced to play with their line-up to accommodate for the loss of Dunn under the post. Gezelle Allison plied her trade but it was Katie Harris that took centre stage, using her netball smarts to create multiple attacking forays and dictate the flow inside the circle. Surrey had no answers for the Wasps and while the attacking unit of Karyn Bailey and Sophie Kelly worked well they simply could not generate enough opportunities to worry the Wasps. A flurry of goals in both the second and fourth quarter all but gifted the Wasps the win, capitalising on their chances and using their swift ball movement to bypass the Storm who despite their physicality could not keep up.

Prior to going off with injury Dunn was a rock under the post, nailing 17 goals while Harris impressed with 23 goals of her own. Allison made an impact with seven goals while through the midcourt Iona Christian and Sophia Candappa were up to their usual tricks, weaving the ball down the court with precision and smarts. defensively Fran Williams and Josie Huckle put up a wall repelling all of Storm’s attacking forays with five rebounds and two deflections between them. It was a difficult outing for the storm with three of their players receiving a wealth of attention from the umpires as Leah Middleton, Niamh Cooper and Yasmin Parsons were handed cautions. Middleton amassed four rebounds, three intercepts and three deflections while fellow defender Felisitus Kwangwa collected four intercepts herself. Bailey finished with 19 goals to her name while Kelly put up nine goals and Frankie Wells slotted five in the loss.

Leeds Rhinos (41) defeated Loughborough Lightning (70)

Player of the match: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)

Lightning had an absolute field day against Leeds Rhinos who were quite simply blown out of the water from the first quarter. Seeming to have the ball on a string Loughborough played with an overwhelming sense of confidence and determination, allowing their connections to take centre stage and press the undermanned Rhinos side. opening up a nine goal lead at the first break, Lightning did not take their foot off the pedal extending their lead and really shining in the third quarter to pile on 20 goals to 13. Rhinos simply did not have enough depth to go toe-to-toe with the Lightning who continuously elevated their game play and impressed with two playing in the highest scoring VNSL game so far in 2021.

It was the Mary Cholhok show under the post with the Ugandan shooter dominating with her accuracy, strong holds and smart body work keeping the likes of Rosie Harris at bay. Cholhok walked away with an impressive 51 goals to her name while Ella Clark also chimed in with 15 goals of her own. Out in wing defence, Beth Cobden had a game to remember amassing two intercepts and a deflection, pairing well with the likes of Nat Panagarry through the centre. It was an all-round stellar effort from the defensive unit of Sam May and Alice Harvey with the two combining for eight intercepts. Sienna Rushton was the go-to girl for Leeds sinking 20 goals while Rhea Dixon managed 12. Vicki Oyesola struggled to have her usual influence while Jade Clarke was also down on her lofty standards.

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