VNSL 2021: Round 12 – Sunday wrap

THE Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) returned for the second half of the season at the Copper Box Arena, with goal shooters dominating during Sunday’s proceedings in London.

Celtic Dragons (34) defeated by Team Bath (51)

Player of the match: Kim Borger (Team Bath)

A fast start from the Celtic Dragons against the ladder leaders was unfortunately not enough to claim a debut 2021 victory, as Team Bath came out flying in the second half to dominate and clean up for a 17-goal win. It was an uncharacteristically sloppy start from Bath, with rotations aplenty as the Dragons flew out of the blocks in a fighting start, relentless in their defensive pressure and relegating the usually formidable Bath front-end to just six goals in the second quarter. But a huge fight back from a one-goal half-time deficit saw Bath pile on the pressure in the second half, shooting 32 goals to 16 to claim victory.

It took a monumental effort from Annika Lee-Jones to nullify Kim Borger early, but that is what she did with an excellent first half effort seeing the changes made in the second as Borger headed to the bench and Betsy Creak took the court. But Borger lifted in intensity after half time, well and truly earning player of the match honours with 33 goals from 36 attempts, ably assisted by Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (14 from 17) and Creak (four from eight). To the Dragons’ credit though, Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrell were much cleaner than they have been in past matches, tracking the ball and player well and providing the physicality without the penalty count. Out the front for the Dragons, Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson had a solid game with 23 and 11 goals respectively, missing just four goals apiece but unfortunately lacking the volume of ball required to really challenge Bath in the second half. Bath’s defensive end deserved all the plaudits, with Layla Guscoth, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Tash Pavelin piling on two intercepts apiece, while Imogen Allison (three intercepts) and Serena Guthrie (two) also created something out of nothing.

Severn Stars (37) defeated by Strathclyde Sirens (45)

Player of the match: Emma Barrie (Strathclyde Sirens) 

An even second half between the Stars and the Sirens was not enough for the Stars to claim a win upon Liana Leota‘s return, with an excellent first half from the Sirens leading to an eight-goal victory and their fifth of the season. The Sirens exploded out the block in a huge 24-16 first half, dominating much of the play credit to yet another defensive showcase, with cleanliness and partnerships paying off in the midcourt to score well off turnovers. Whilst the side did not extend their lead following half time, it was credit to the side for not giving in when the Stars came looking, more than proving how well the Sirens have stepped up to the plate this season.

Player of the match Emma Barrie was a soldier at the post, piling on 34 goals from 38 attempts and well and truly holding down the fort for the Sirens. Fellow youngster Niamh McCall had an impact out the front with 11 goals, whilst Beth Dix, Gia Abernethy and Taylor Cullen were impressive through the midcourt, collecting an intercept apiece. At the other end, Emily Nicholl and Towera Vinkhumbo may not have been the cleanest but were formidable in circle defence combining for four intercepts, seven deflections and six turnovers, tracking their opposition with ease. For the Stars, Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed shot well despite the defensive pressure with 27 and 10 goals respectively, while the side was forced to rotate plenty of circle defenders through the back-end in an attempt to limit Barrie. Kyra Jones made her Superleague return and did not appear to skip a beat, while Leota also proved critical with her excellent ball speed into the goal circle.

Saracens Mavericks (48) defeated by Leeds Rhinos (63)

Player of the match: Donnell Wallam (Leeds Rhinos)

The Leeds Rhinos proved what they are made of in an excellent victory over Saracens Mavericks, putting the Mavs on the back foot from the get-go in a huge effort. Wherever the Mavericks turned was a Rhinos answer, with the outstanding pressure across the court rendering the Mavs inefficient on the passing front, and unable to retain any momentum. The Rhinos edge ever closer to the Mavs on the ladder, creating very little separation as they continue on their merry way.

With the Mavericks still missing formidable defender Razia Quashie, it was down to Jo Trip and Jodie Gibson to limit Rhinos sharpshooter Donnell Wallam. But instead of faltering under pressure, Wallam proved just how capable she is of performing under pressure, stepping up immensely to pile on 54 goals and missing just one across the entire match. Rhea Dixon may not have been the star of the show in goal attack finishing with nine goals, but her ability to open up space for Wallam and fire passes into the circle was commendable. At the other end, Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan were huge defensively, with the former racking up six deflections and the latter piling on six intercepts in an outstanding effort. The Mavericks had no answer to the defensive pressure, with Ine-Mari Venter forced to take on the attacking load as Kadeen Corbin was well and truly outplayed – and even spent some time at the other end in goal keeper. Venter’s 36 goal saw her accuracy come to light, missing just one shot, while Chloe Essam was solid posting 10 goals.

Wasps Netball (42) defeated by Loughborough Lightning (52)

Player of the match: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning)

The Lightning continued their excellent string of form this season with a classy 10-goal win over the Wasps, dropping just one quarter on their way to the 52-42 victory. A 15-11 final quarter final quarter effort put the nail in the coffin, extending the lead after a tight third term, and seeing the Lightning well and truly announce themselves as a contender against the Wasps who did not relent throughout the contest.

It was the Mary Cholhok show once more for the Lightning, with the Ugandan tall timber dominating in every area of her game in yet another clinical performance, piling on 43 goals from 49 attempts. Hannah JosephSuzie Liverseidge and Nat Panagarry were all crucial propelling ball into the circle, while Sam May and Alice Harvey piled on the defensive pressure, with the latter creating three deflections as did Beth Cobden out in wing defence. Rachel Dunn may have been accurate out the front for the Wasps but it was not enough against the Lightning’s defensive pressure, as Katie Harris added 12 goals to Dunn’s 29-goal tally. Iona Christian and Amy Flanagan had their moments, although the side lacked punch out the front with Sophia Candappa out of the side for the rest of the season, with Leah Goss stepping up but unable to quite fill her shoes in her first appearance.

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