Team Bath outgunned but not outclassed in defeat to Thunder
Team Bath’s exciting new Fiat Superleague side were outgunned but not outclassed as they went down 45-55 to Northern Thunder in front of a big home crowd at the University of Bath tonight.
Coach Jess Garland experimented with a number of combinations as her side showed flashes of brilliance but also inexperience in their second defeat of the season.
“This early in the season we need to know what options there are. Some of the combinations we tried are not as cohesive as others but against a side like Thunder who are tipped to finish in the top four we had to use the opportunity to get more players out on court”, said Garland.
Neither team was dominant in the opening five minutes but Gemma Fletcher shone with some striking interceptions for Team Bath in the defensive circle.
“We started well in that opening quarter and finished the match well. Now we have to work on the middle section”, said Fletcher of an encounter which was largely won by the visitors in the first and third quarters which they took16-9 and 16-8 respectively.
Thunder composed a four goal-surge midway through the opening quarter to lead 12-6, aided by their height and diligence in mid-court. The visitors’ pressure also forced Team Bath into a trio of wayward passes to nowhere rather than into the hands of goal-shooter Kadeen Corbin.
The pattern continued in a less frantic second quarter with Corbin accurate once given the ball. Conversely, lanky Janelle Lawson, at shooter for Thunder, started shakily but warmed to her task in the second quarter.
“There were some really, really good aspects for us. We played well for the first three quarters and all credit to Team Bath who really excelled in the final quarter. Maybe we stopped playing towards the end because of the score but we’ve got to work on that for the future”, said a clearly delighted Tracey Neville, coach to Thunder.
Thunder moved to 21-12 and then 29-16 to put a seeming stranglehold on the match before half-time
Garland matched up Amanda Trounce, Welsh International, with Thunder’s England centre Sara Bayman, but the gap remained 10 goals or more through the quarter until Team Bath stole six goals for only one reply to trail 22-30 at half-time.
Thunder piled on the misery for the home side in the third quarter stretching their lead to 43-27 with six minutes remaining of the quarter.
“You might say that I should have stuck with the line-up that brought the margin back to eight goals but I’m not sure even those seven players would have pushed on”, said Garland.
Bayman combined well with Rachel Henry who came on at wing-attack. And Neville, sister of the footballing Neville brothers, brought on experienced England shooter Karen Grieg to add agility and accuracy in the circle.
Garland subbed Katy Walsh for Becky Watkins at wing-defence and moved Asha Francis out into the mid-court at wing-attack, allowing her to bring on Kay Hayes at goal-shooter.
There were continued flashes of brilliance from Team Bath, particularly from Corbin, but the home side were consistently out-gunned and were 30-46 behind with 15 minutes left.
In a pulsating final quarter Teamm Bath rallied particularly in the final six minutes to pull back the deficit to 39-51 and 42-52, before going down 45-55 in a thrilling final few minutes of goal-to-goal action heralded by a chorus of African-style vuvzuelas from the partisan, noisy and big home crowd.
The young Team Bath side now face another tough home test against league leaders Surrey Storm on Friday night (3 February). The pre-match entertainment on Friday gets underway at 7.15pm.