Team Bath beat London Pulse 64-60 in Vitality Netball Superleague
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 12/03/19 4:47pm
Team Bath beat a determined London Pulse by 64-60 at the Copper Box Arena on Monday, in the final match of Round Nine of the Vitality Netball Superleague.
The visitors led from start to finish, boosted by the return of Serena Guthrie from injury, but lost the final quarter by 18-10 as their hosts showed continued improvement and a commitment to their search for a first win since Super 10 on January 5.
Bath's more precise work over the duration of the match saw them over the line and contrasted with Pulse's slight undulations throughout the 60 minutes.
The three match points for Team Bath mean that they remain in fifth position in the table but are well within touching distance of Loughborough Lightning, Sara Bayman's side are just three points above them.
At this, the halfway point in the season, London Pulse are at the foot of the table but will continue to press for more. They will have a chance to build on their positives as eight-placed Severn Stars are the next visitors to the Copper Box Arena in Round 10.
For Team Bath, this match marked the start of a busy period with four matches in 14 days and they head home to face Celtic Dragons on Saturday.
Vitality Superleague - Round Nine results
|Saturday, March 9||Strathclyde Sirens||38 - 68||Saracens Mavericks|
|Celtic Dragons||57 - 70||L'boro Lightning|
|Manchester Thunder||66 - 42||Surrey Storm|
|Sunday, March 10|
|Wasps Netball||54 - 47||Severn Stars|
|Monday, March 11|
|London Pulse||60 - 64||Team Bath|
Team Bath arrived in London off the back of an exceptional performance against Manchester Thunder and started with the type of confidence that such a result delivers.
With Guthrie back in their ranks, alongside Imogen Allison, Eboni Usoro-Brown and Summer Artman, their defence from Centre through to GK was packed with power and the trio disrupted Pulse from the word go.
As the hosts struggled to find their tempo and feed shooters Chiara Semple and Shantal Slater effectively, Bath accelerated into an early 5-1 lead.
However, as the quarter progressed, Pulse settled and found their confidence. The result of that was levelling the match and then continuing to go goal-for-goal.
The Vitality Player of the Match - Sophie Drakeford-Lewis - would bring about the turnover that Bath needed to kick-start a strong finish to the opening 15 minutes. Artman and Usoro-Brown came to the fore again and their defensive pressure was converted to finish the first quarter 17-12 in front.
Pulse head coach Te Aroha Keenan made a key change going into the second and introduced the highly experienced Ash Neal at WA.
Neal's quick vision and distribution helped to shore up their attacking end and duly created a three-goal contest at 20-17 midway through the second period. However, the home side's inability to sustain their potency allowed Bath to then open out a 28-18 lead.
With 30 minutes played, the visitors were seven in front, 35-28, and Guthrie's evening's work was done due her game time being managed after injury.
With a changed mid-court as Mia Richie took the reins at Centre and Abigail Robson arrived at WD, Bath opened the scoring in the second half.
As they have done for many rounds this season, Pulse continued to make the Blue and Gold work for every goal throughout the second half. They went into the last pause 54-42 behind before giving their fans so much to shout about in the final 15 minutes.
Slater had proved to be a pivotal focal point in their shooting circle, and, when fed quickly by Neal in the two middle quarters, was able to be at her best.
In the middle of the third set of 15 minutes, Bath's Usoro-Brown had moved back to GK to make Slater's life more challenging and the duel that played out between the two was of the highest quality.
Ultimately, Bath's work in the early stages of the encounter, their all-court defence, and a strong combination between Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane, were their major assets. That allowed them the ball, and cushion, that they needed to fend off a gusty display from Pulse.
The match finished with Pulse's young shooter Olivia Tchine sinking a long-shot (a penalty pass or shot) with the eyes of the stadium on her. Tchine has come through the franchise's ranks and is just one of many outstanding talents they have.
It may not have been a victory for Superleague's newest franchise but it was an outing that their next opponents Stars, and the rest of the league, will have taken note of.
Watch more Vitality Netball Superleague when Loughborough Lightning host Wasps in Round Ten on Monday, March 18 live on Sky Sports Mix, Main Event & Action from 6.45pm. Also, Sky Sports will be showing every game of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in July.