Wasps Netball 54, Severn Stars 43
Severn Stars suffered a 54-43 defeat at the hands of Midlands rivals Wasps Netball, despite pushing the reigning champions all the way with an encouraging display.
A much-improved Stars came out firing in the second half and a stunning third quarter saw them halve the deficit to just five points to leave nerves jangling inside the Ricoh Arena.
But an experienced Wasps side were able to see out the game in the final quarter to ensure they held on to top spot in the Vitality Netball Superleague.
Stars started brightly, keeping pace with the hosts and edging ahead 3-4 in the opening stages, with Stars’ defensive trio thwarting several early attacks to keep Wasps at bay.
But the home side soon found their rhythm with goal shooter Georgie Fisher in fine form under the basket, helping her side to carve out a dominant 16-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Wasps continued their dominance in the second quarter, with Fisher linking well with goal attack Rachel Dunn to help the hosts push their lead to 20-10 six minutes before the break.
However, Stars showed good spells, with the attacking trio of Cardwell, debutant goal attack Amanda Davis and wing-attack Maryka Holtzhausen combining effectively to keep the half-time score at 20-29.
Stars made a substitution at the break, with Rosie Allison coming on at goal shooter in place of Davis, while Cardwell moved to goal attack.
The change seemed to pay off for Stars, who dominated large spells of the third quarter, immediately reducing the gap to just seven goals in the opening two minutes.
A spirited Stars continued to keep pace with the league leaders, with Cardwell and Holtzhausen providing the ammunition for the in-form Allison to fire Stars back to within six points.
Stars continued to pile the pressure on the hosts, with goal keeper Phumza Maweni thwarting several attacks to help keep the momentum with the visitors, who ended the quarter just 41-35 behind.
Stars carried their momentum into the final quarter, with Cardwell intelligently finding space and netting from distance to cut the deficit to just five points.
The visitors continued to frustrate Wasps, restricting them to just a six-goal advantage for the majority of the final quarter.
But an experienced Wasps side were able to find their rhythm in the latter stages and, despite a much-improved performance from Stars, Rachel Dunn was able to net in the final seconds of the game to ensure the hosts maintained their unbeaten record.
Stars’ Head Coach, Sam Bird, was encouraged by her side’s performance despite the defeat, pointing out that they had lost by the same margin to the league leaders as they did to Celtic Dragons at the weekend.
“That shows you the level of performance we put in today,” she said.
“We smashed them in the third quarter and we challenged them in the other quarters.
“It was important for us to try new combinations of players from Saturday and those combinations worked better and better as the game went on.
“Yes, it’s a loss, but I think some of that play was outstanding and that’s the sort of performance we need to take into Friday’s game at Sirens.”
Tickets for the next home game against Loughborough Lightning on Saturday 28 April (6pm) are available at www.severnstars.co.uk.
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Image credit Lindsey Dowthwaite Photography