After taking a weekend off, the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season returned with ten matches played across four thrilling days at Production Park Studio 001.
The teamwork shown between players, coaches, staff and volunteers helped to get the season up and running with fans able to enjoy every pass, goal and intercept live on Sky Sports.
Here’s your recap of all the action…
Severn Stars were still without star player Liana Leota as they opened the weekend’s action on Friday, but Melissa Bessell’s side produced a confident display to secure their first win of the season against Surrey Storm 49-46.
It was a nail-biting contest throughout with the score still tied with ten minutes remaining as Stars ultimately edged ahead, in part thanks to the excellent work of iPro Player of the Match, Paige Reed, who supported the returning Georgia Rowe in the shooting circle.
The second match that evening promised to be something special with the two remaining 100% records on the line as Team Bath took on Manchester Thunder, and it was the Blue and Gold who earned an incredible 60-35 victory over the champions.
It was close in the first quarter but Team Bath’s dominance slowly grew and the dynamic attacking combination of Vitality Rose Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Rengen Player of the Match Kim Borger helped fire the side to the win.
Poetry in motion 📜
— Vitality Netball Superleague (@NetballSL) March 12, 2021
Loughborough Lightning remain in imperious form as they stretched their winning run to six matches to kick off Saturday’s action, courtesy of a 56-37 success over a Surrey Storm side taking to the court for the second time in as many days.
Surrey Sport Park Player of the Match, Hannah Joseph, shone for Lightning as they held off their opponents for most of the match to consolidate their position at the top of the table.
Two more clubs who’d also featured on Friday night then faced off with Team Bath beating a resilient Severn Stars outfit 49-30 after a commanding display by England centurion Eboni Usoro-Brown, who was named Regen Player of the Match.
Having picked up their first win the day before, Stars impressed in patches against the quality of Team Bath, who eventually had enough within their ranks to seal a fifth straight victory.
A challenging weekend for champions Manchester Thunder finished with a 53-44 defeat against the side they beat in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final, Wasps Netball.
It was a tight opening quarter before Wasps took control in the second and maintained a reasonable lead thereafter as Vitality Rose Fran William’s defensive efforts saw her handed the Netball UK Player of the Match award.
Choose your delivery option 📦
— Vitality Netball Superleague (@NetballSL) March 13, 2021
The first draw of the season arrived on Sunday when a pulsating battle between Strathclyde Sirens and Saracens Mavericks concluded 34-34.
Mavericks held a three-point advantage heading into the final two minutes yet Sirens fought back manfully to earn themselves a point, with the phenomenal Towera Vinkumbo collecting the Princes Square Player of the Match.
The entertainment continued in the next contest as Loughborough Lightning were given a stern test in their 52-40 win by a London Pulse side who headed into the weekend without any points on the board.
Boosted by co-captain and Vitality Rose Halimat Adio’s work to contain the formidable Mary Cholhok, Pulse won the first quarter and competed well throughout before Lightning ground out the win as Vitality Netball World Cup bronze medalist Nat Panagarry picked up her second Computacenter Player of the Match award.
Wasps Netball were also tested on Sunday as they saw off the considerable threat of Leeds Rhinos to claim a 53-41 victory.
Rhinos particularly impressed in the second quarter to reduce the scoreline but Wasps asserted themselves once more in the second half, with Mizuno Player of the Match, Iona Christian, starring in the midcourt.
Monday night saw London Pulse get off the mark for this season as they triumphed 56-29 against Celtic Dragons, who are now the only club yet to pick up their first point.
Having given Loughborough Lightning a scare on Sunday, Pulse were determined to sustain those performance levels and accomplished that with both ends of the court excelling and Funmi Fadoju securing the Atlantic House Investments Player of the Match award.
How about Adio tho?
The @Pulse_Netball co-captain has been a monster for her side in what was such an important game 👹
She slammed that ball into the ground 💪 pic.twitter.com/mpBBYx7O9L
— Vitality Netball Superleague (@NetballSL) March 15, 2021
Rounding off the weekend’s games were Leeds Rhinos and Strathclyde Sirens with the latter suffering their first defeat in five outings in a 43-36 loss.
Both clubs have impressed in the early stages of the campaign and it was a very close affair until Rhinos powered away in the final 12 minutes, inspired by the shooting prowess of Age Partnership Player of the Match Sienna Rushton.
Sky Sports pundit Eboni Usoro-Brown said: “We talked at the top of the show about how do you deal with a problem like (Towera) Vinkumbo and she was very very quiet today. And I think that’s ultimately because Sienna Rushton, as you can see, she teed up against her, she took her right out of the game in terms of changing her angles, providing short ball and presenting for the ball from the midcourt players.”
Watch all of the weekend’s action back on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel!
Head to the Vitality Netball Superleague website for upcoming fixture details.