Team Bath come through tough test to move closer to play-off
Team Bath’s netballers edged ever closer to a place in the FIAT Netball Superleague play-offs with a 52-49 win over Leeds Carnegie at home today but they were made to fight all the way to the wire for it.
Trailing 44-45 with six and a half minutes to the final whistle, Team Bath needed a goal-surge in the final three minutes to get the win in front of the Bank Holiday weekend home crowd at the University’s Sports Training Village.
Gemma Fletcher was outstanding in the final stages for Bath, using all her experience at key moments, adding to the two fabulous last-quarter intercepts from Sam Perry at goal-defence.
“What a test for this group of the squad”, said coach Jess Garland afterwards. “It wasn’t pretty at times and we were made to play full-out but I’m pleased with our squad in keeping with the Team Bath ethos of strength in depth even though we had several players missing”.
Rosie Allison steadied the Bath ship throughout with some strong and consistent shooting from long-range when it mattered. She was backed by an agile and determined Asha Tett at goal attack and Kadeen Corbin, sister of former Team Bath player Sasha, made a successful debut in the second half at goal-keeper.
Today’s match was a strong contrast to the last time the two sides met when Team Bath, currently lying third in the league, won 69 –33. Everyone was aware that today might prove a different story with several of the home side’s players away on England duty.
“From a coaching point of view and as we move towards the play-offs, it has been great for the squad to experience this kind of game”, said Garland of the tightest contest at home for some time.
The first quarter set the scene with the two teams battling point by point. Team Bath scored from the first centre pass and then turned over the ball to lead 2-0 but the away side soon got into their stride and the scores swung backwards and forwards to 8-8.
Jo Walker, a mobile, accurate and tall goal-shooter, combined well with Nat Haythornthwaite at goal-attack for seventh-ranked Leeds to provide Sam Perry and Gemma Fletcher, the Team Bath circle defence, with a stiff test.
Laura Malcolm at wing-defence and Danni Bloomfield at centre for Leeds neutralised their opposition to provide a strong centre-court performance for the visitors.
A somewhat unsettled and inconsistent Team Bath were trailing 8-10 with just under three minutes of the opening quarter remaining but steadied themselves to level and reach the interval 13-12 with a last 30-second score.
Allison’s shooting from long-range helped the home side build up a buffer to lead 20-16 and 25-21 before moving to half-time at 26-23.
In the second quarter Katy Rose and Mia Ritchie, at wing attack and centre, slipped their markers to assist the attack more regularly than the opening period. Asha Tett continued to provide dynamic support for Allison whilst Scarlett Williams made two good intercepts at vital times.
At half-time the visitors made their only substitution of the encounter, bringing on Krista Enziano to good effect at goal-shooter and the combination of Bloomfield, Malcolm and Nat Panagarry in the centre-court continued to pay dividends for Leeds.
The visitors were 27-31 down mid-way through the quarter but fought back to win the quarter 15-13 and trail by just a single goal 38-39 at the final interval.
Team Bath took the initiative early in the final quarter, leading 42-40 and 43-41 but again Leeds hit back to level at 43-43 before moving ahead by one goal themselves at 46-45.
Team Bath held their nerve and used their turn-overs in defence to good effect to make the difference with three and a half minutes to go. They carved out a five-goal advantage to lead 52-47 and held on for victory despite some frantic action and two last minute goals from Leeds.
“It was a good opportunity for all of us today”, said Fletcher for Team Bath. “It was a hard-fought game and we had to keep it together under pressure. I’m very proud of everyone”.
Team Bath’s final home match of the season, in the league stage, will be on 12 May against Surrey Storm at 19.30 at the Sports Training Village and will be transmitted live on Sky TV.