Leeds Rhinos 56 – 55 Severn Stars
Severn Stars’ Bethan Dyke took the first centre pass however Rhino’s Vicki Oyesola was alert to Liana Leota’s long ball and intercepted to overturn play.
It was Sigi Burger who converted the first goal of the game after her side threaded the ball through and capitalised on Stars’ early mistake.
The home side began to draw a lead as Burger converted their fourth but Stars goal attack Paige Reed looked to push her side on as she capitalised and scored their first.
As the away side looked to push on, Rhinos’ Tuaine Keenan spotted the passage of play and was first to the ball, intercepting Stars’ attack.
Unforced errors from both sides saw an up and down passage of play but it was Stars who could capitalise after Iman Thomas picked up the loose ball and played the ball through to Reed who forced a penalty and converted.
As Stars looked for an opener through the attack, Leota looked to thread the ball around the defence into the arms of Reed, but Oyesola was quick to react and nullify any danger.
With the clock signalling a near end to the first quarter, Stars upped their intensity with a quick passage of play through to Cat Tuivaiti who drew their side within just five.
Rhinos were quick enough to create one final attack as Brie Grierson beat the buzzer to put her side 16-10 up.
Heading into the second quarter, both sides went goal for goal, but it was Rhinos who broke first as an interception from Stars provided Tuivaiti the chance to overturn play drawing the game back to just five.
Rhinos continued with their patient build up play as Burger drew the defence out and left herself in space to receive and convert the shot.
With the pressure intensifying, Stars’ Reed controlled the ball with a great one-handed take before scoring to keep her side in the game.
However, Rhinos didn’t take their foot off the gas as Amelia Hall continued to link up with Burger, providing her with the long looping ball as they continued to push Stars.
With the half drawing to a close, there was one last attack for Stars after Dee Bolakoro intercepted Rhinos play to overturn and provide a break for Reed who scored.
The home side took a six goal lead into half time as they led 31-25.
Stars started strong as they instantly pulled two goals back and a third soon came after Dyke was alert to Jade Clarke’s centre pass, reclaiming possession for her side.
Stars capitalised after Reed drew a penalty and laid the ball off to Tuivaiti who sunk her shot to bring the game to just 32-28.
Just as Stars looked to gain on Rhinos, a series of unforced errors allowed the hosts to redraw a six goal after consecutive feeds from Hall once again.
Stars substitute Nicole Humphrys provided her side with a crucial interception, starting a counterattack in which Tuivaiti calmly dispatched.
With just minutes left on the clock, Lucy Herdman drew a foul from Burger as they looked to create one final attack for Reed. The goal attack beat the buzzer and converted to draw a score line of 47-41 heading into the final 15 minutes.
Both sides gave their all as they both started strong, but it was Rhinos who overturned Stars’ first centre pass of the quarter.
Looking to find a way back, Stars broke as an unforced error from Rhinos was converted by Tuivaiti. The visitors continued to push after a no look pass from Tuivaiti fell into the arms of Reed who brought the game to just five once again.
Bolakoro produced another vital interception as her side capitalised and scored back-to-back goals, but the deficit was increased shortly after by Burger after drawing the defence out and clearing the space to receive and dispatch her shot.
As Rhinos looked to mount a fast attack, Herdman was first to the rebounded shot, creating a turnover for her side as Reed converted to bring the game to just three.
In the closing stages it was down to who would break first and it was the home side after Bolakoro intercepted the looping pass, producing a rapid counterattack for Reed to convert and equalise for her side.
In the final seconds of the game, it was Rhinos who secured all three points after a misplaced pass from Stars resulted in a turnover for the hosts, putting them 56-55 up. Burger wrapped up the game to keep her side in the top four race.
Amelia Hall received player of the match.
Match report written by Grace Gunn (University of Gloucester student)
Photos thanks to @Merrick_matthew