Severn Stars 36, Leeds Rhinos 63
Severn Stars were unable to halt a Leeds Rhinos side on the charge with the top four in their sights, losing 63-36.
While Rhinos were keen to bounce back from a loss to Team Bath, Stars were looking to maintain the better form they showed in their previous Vitality Netball Superleague match against Loughborough Lightning. But Rhinos took control of the game early on and extended their lead in every quarter.
Rhinos shooter, Donnell Wallam, started the game, at London’s Copper Box Arena, with great intent, helping Rhinos immediately open up a 4-0 lead. The attacking line up of Rhinos was lightning quick and as soon as Stars had a centre pass the pressure on them was intense, resulting in turnover ball and Rhinos extending their lead. Stars found themselves needing to go backwards on their centre passes, but this patience and possession worked to bring the score back to 4-9. But an attacking contact, offside and held ball all went against Stars. Iman Thomas came on at goal defence and Malysha Kelly at goal keeper to try and halt Rhinos’ flow, but the quarter finished with them in front, 18-8.
Newly named England Roses, Rhea Dixon and Brie Grierson, continued to work together effectively for Rhinos in the second quarter and link well with shooter Wallam. Stars’ Kyra Jones, at centre, made an athletic interception, which was converted by Jane Taylor, recently on to replace goal attack, Paige Reed, who went down with an ankle injury. But more errors on Stars centre passes continued to be punished by Rhinos under the post, and short one two passes by Dixon resulted in more goals, with Rhinos ahead 34-18 at the interval.
A brighter start to the second half for Stars saw Taylor scoring at range. Lucy Herdman re-entered the game at goal keeper and was able to gain a rebound and an intercept. Rhinos continued to control the midcourt effectively, mixing it up between short ball side passes between players and the long ball into Wallam at the post. But Stars Captain and midcourter, Liana Leota, linked well with Taylor at goal attack, who distracted the Rhinos defenders to provide Georgia Rowe with space under the post. The third quarter brought Stars more into the game, but the team was still behind, 47-29.
In the final quarter Stars defenders continued to win turnover ball, but errors still plagued their game. There was a multitude of changes for Stars throughout the last 12 minutes, but it could not prevent Rhinos reaching the 60 mark and the League newcomers took a 63-36 victory.
Severn Stars Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, said: “For us it’s about making sure we understand why we lost that game. We did not turn up today. But they know they can do better than that and I know they can too.”
Stars, a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and University of Gloucestershire, must now look to bounce back after a short season interval, with a double header weekend of matches, against Team Bath on Friday, May 28, and Manchester Thunder on Saturday, May 29.
For more information on Severn Stars visit the website www.severnstars.co.uk. Photos courtesy of Ben Lumley.