Vitality Netball Superleague: Saracens Mavericks’ play-off hopes dented by London Pulse
Mavericks now sit behind Strathclyde Sirens and Wasps in sixth position with one fixture remaining; uncertainty surrounds another play-off contender - Leeds Rhinos Netball - and their two final matches, after having to isolate due to a positive COVID-19 result
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 14/06/21 9:29pm
Saracens Mavericks' hopes of securing fourth position and the final place in the Vitality Netball Superleague semi-finals were dented by an inspired London Pulse outfit.
After a stunning victory over Team Bath Netball on Sunday, Mavericks were not able to replicate the same type of performance and failed to find the answers to Pulse's defensive intensity and composed approach.
The 46-33 defeat means that Mavericks remain on 31 points, with one game remaining against Surrey Storm. Strathclyde Sirens, sitting in fourth, have 32 points and also have a further match to play.
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Wasps and Leeds Rhinos Netball are the two other teams in contention for fourth position and both are currently impacted by COVID-19.
Wasps' Round 19 encounter with Storm was postponed, while Leeds Rhinos Netball still have two further matches in their schedule, however, they are isolating due to one of their players having recorded a positive COVID-19 result.
It is unclear exactly what the protocols will be with regard to Rhinos' two remaining fixtures - whether the points will be allocated, the five-day 'return to play' time period could be adjusted to fit the fixtures in, or what the course of action will be.
Dan Ryan, Leeds Rhinos' head coach, told Sky Sports on Monday night that they are expecting to know more from the Vitality Netball Superleague board on Tuesday morning.
"There's still so much uncertainty as to what it looks like for us, and it's changing at a rapid rate," he said. "Now we just have to sit tight and see what the Superleague board's official ruling is and what it means for us.
"We accept whatever is in front of us and we get on with the task at hand. The past 24 to 48 hours have been emotionally taxing for the group. If my team is one thing, it's resilient."
Vitality Netball Superleague's race for the top four
|Strathclyde Sirens (4th)||Wasps (5th)||Saracens Mavericks (6th)||Leeds Rhinos (7th)|
|Points: 32||Points: 31||Points: 31||Points: 30|
|May 29||Team Bath (L)|
|May 30||Saracens Mavericks (W)||Strathclyde Sirens (L)||Loughborough Lightning (L)|
|May 31||Saracens Mavericks (L)||Wasps (W)||Surrey Storm (W)|
|June 13||Celtic Dragons (W)||Surrey Storm (Postponed)||Team Bath (W)|
|June 14||London Pulse (L)|
|June 20||Manchester Thunder||Surrey Storm||London Pulse|
|June 21||Celtic Dragons|
Mavericks falter as Pulse show potential
Mavericks went into their contest with Pulse feeling the effects of their duel with Bath on Sunday.
The Achilles injury that Razia Quashie sustained in the final quarter has ruled her out for the rest of the season, while Beth Ecuyer-Dale's ankle sprain meant that she was unavailable too.
From the outset, Mavericks knew that the pressure remained heaped on their shoulders, while Pulse had the freedom to enjoy themselves, having secured eighth position and a Fast5 slot on Sunday.
The opening quarter was a low-scoring one, due to a considerable amount of pressure being exerted inside both circles.
Jo Trip and Jodie Gibson seamlessly restored their partnership for Mavericks, while two players at different ends of their careers - Funmi Fadoju and Lindsay Keable - complemented each other beautifully in Pulse's circle.
The result was an 11-9 quarter in Mavericks' favour and after that, Pulse found an extra gear and remained in it for the rest of the match.
Ash Dekker was outstanding at WA, three different WDs couldn't stop her, and Olivia Tchine showed why she had pushed Sigi Burger to the bench.
With Fadoju and Keable coming up with plenty of ball, and errors littering Mavericks' work, the home side had created a 12-goal advantage by three-quarter time.
In the final quarter Pulse continued to show their confidence and how much of a force they could be for seasons to come, as Sam Bird's outfit has one of the youngest age profiles in the competition.
At the full-time whistle, Pulse's elation contrasted with the desolate Mavericks players, and their head coach gave a frank assessment.
"It sums up our season really, we can beat the team at the top of the table yesterday and then come out today and put out a performance that's just not us," said Kat Ratnapala.
"It's obviously umpired in a very different way today, and I think we took too long to adjust to it. No excuses at all, because we just weren't good enough, and we didn't deserve that win today. It's tough to take."
Meanwhile, Manchester Thunder put the pressure on the teams above them, overpowering Sara Bayman's Lightning team and recording a 60-46 victory.
A 16-9 opening quarter set the tone, and although Lightning never gave up, the 2019 champions flexed their muscles and showed their strength in depth during the latter stages
Thunder's stunning victory puts them level on points with second-placed Lightning before taking on Sirens in Round 20, while Lightning meet Team Bath.
Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Sunday, with four matches back-to-back streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm.