The Vitality Netball Superleague 2022 season continued to deliver in Round Three as teams made welcome returns home to play in front of their own fans for the first time in two years.
Lots of Vitality Roses, Roses Futures and Roses Academy athletes were involved as six games took place over three days.
Here’s a recap of how the England internationals fared…
Saracens Mavericks 53-51 London Pulse
Saracens Mavericks made it three wins from three on their return to the Hertfordshire Sports Village.
After two wins each in their previous meetings, both sides were fighting hard for bragging rights with Mavericks, whose side featured Razia Quashie and Gabby Marshall, sailing into a healthy 16-9 lead after the opening 15 minutes.
Despite an improved second-quarter display by London Pulse, seven goals remained the difference at half-time before Mavericks clinically converted their chances to accelerate into a 13-goal lead (45-32) heading into the final quarter.
But it was a spirited and determined final-quarter fightback from Pulse, whose game day squad included four Roses Futures – Olivia Tchine, Kira Rothwell, Zara Everitt and Funmi Fadoju – and two Roses Academy athletes – Peace Akinyemi and Jayda Pechova.
Pulse had an impressive momentum shift to considerably cut the deficit and set up a tense finale, but Mavericks did just enough to get over the line.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kadeen Corbin scooped her second Player of the Match award of the season.
Strathclyde Sirens 43-45 Leeds Rhinos
After a postponement in Round One, Leeds Rhinos got their second VNSL campaign up and running with a close-fought win.
Vitality Roses Jade Clarke, Rhea Dixon and Vicki Oyesola, and Roses Future Brie Grierson started for Rhinos, with Sienna Rushton also in the game day squad, but it was Strathclyde Sirens who edged into an early lead (12-10).
The end-to-end action continued at the Emirates Arena with Rhinos tipping the game in their favour to hold their own slender two-goal advantage at the break (22-24).
Full court defensive pressure from Rhinos earned them multiple turnovers allowing them to stretch out to 30-37 going into the final 15.
Rhinos looked to be home and dry when they pulled out to 10 goals in front. Sirens’ grit and determination shone through though as they responded to close the gap once again but ultimately fell just short.
Manchester Thunder 76-68 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder put 70 goals on the board for the third game running but didn’t have things all their own way as they secured their first home victory of the season.
Natalie Metcalf returned to VNSL action after 1,317 days – her first appearance since the 2018 Grand Final in which she won the title with Wasps.
Nat Metcalf doing Nat Metcalf things 💫
How great is it to see @nataliesymone back in the Vitality Netball Superleague?!
— Vitality Netball Superleague (@NetballSL) February 12, 2022
After flying out the traps, Surrey Storm trailed by five (19-14) at the end of the first quarter following an impressive final few minutes by Thunder’s attacking unit.
Every time a gap opened up, Storm fought back, spending most of the second quarter breathing down the necks of their opponents and the sides were all square at half-time (34-34).
A turnover for Thunder in the third quarter seemed to change the flow of the game and they refused to rest on their laurels as they entered the fourth quarter five goals up, pushing on to seal the win and maintain their 100 percent record.
Sharp shooter Eleanor Cardwell was named Player of the Match for the second time in three matches as she chalked up 26 goals and 19 feeds in Manchester Thunder’s win.
Loughborough Lightning 65-37 Celtic Dragons
Reigning champions Loughborough Lightning’s unbeaten start to their title defence continued as they overcame Celtic Dragons.
Five Vitality Roses started for Lightning as the home side settled quickly into the game and their rhythm, leaving little time for the visitors to claim any dominance.
Their depth, experience and confidence played into their hands as they finished the opening quarter ahead by 12 (19-7).
Showing no signs of slowing down, Lightning shook off Dragons’ increasing physicality, remained calm and continued to add to their tally.
Heading into the second half with a 21-goal lead (39-18), Lightning used the opportunity to mix things up with Roses Academy athlete Emma Thacker coming into the mix.
Despite the changes made, the side continued to dominate through court to claim their second win of the 2022 season.
Wasps 54-45 Severn Stars
Wasps bounced back from two defeats during the opening weekend in Birmingham to come out on top in a thrilling West Midlands derby and secure their first win of the season.
It was Severn Stars who quickly found their feet in the opening quarter to lead the home side 10-12, but Wasps tipped the game in their favour to be narrowly in front at the end of the first half (23-21).
Roses Academy shooter Isabelle Eaton entered the fray in the third quarter and picked up where she left off at Season Opener.
The two-time champions proved too strong though and pulled away, in contrast to their previous two games where they let leads slip, as they established a nine-goal cushion (42-33).
Despite Stars battling to cut the deficit with some crucial tips and intercepts, Wasps professionally saw out the contest.
Leeds Rhinos 47-67 Team Bath
Team Bath showed resilience in the face of injury and illness as they ran out 47-67 winners against Leeds Rhinos.
Aside from the result, it was an exciting and momentous night for Rhinos as they finally got the chance to play their first-ever VNSL home game.
Despite having a depleted squad, Team Bath were still able to call on the experienced Layla Guscoth, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and captain Imogen Allison.
Team Bath made life difficult for their hosts, making them pay for errors and lost balls, and their dominance showed as the score stood at 10-19 after 15 minutes.
Vitality Rose Rhea Dixon was introduced for Rhinos at the start of the second quarter as her side picked up momentum, but Team Bath were clinical, extending their lead to 12 at the break (22-34).
Team Bath remained in control in the third quarter (35-49) and although Rhinos enjoyed some of their best play of the game in the final stages, including Roses Future Sienna Rushton scoring nine goals from her 11 attempts in her first appearance of the season, the five-time champions were relentless.
Allison led by example throughout and picked up the Player of the Match award.
Tickets for the Vitality Netball Superleague Spring Showdown are currently on sale exclusively to England Netball and VNSL franchise members ahead of general sale on Monday 21 February.