Grangetown Netball Club won a thrilling encounter with Turnford in their round 7 Prem 1 clash; the fourth victory from their opening seven fixtures in the top flight of English club netball.
Turnford had travelled up from their Hertfordshire base with an identical record to Grangetown, the teams being separated only on goal average. The game also paired the two clubs who had been promoted from Prem 2 last season, and just as there was little to separate the teams on paper, so it proved out on court.
Grangetown were at full strength, with Gen Slater and Katie Walton having been on international duty for Ireland in last weekend’s friendly against Scotland A. Former Team Northumbria Super League players Ash Neal and Tuaine Keenan found themselves facing a former colleague, as Chiara Semple took her place in Turnford’s starting seven. Chiara will link up with Ash and Grangetown’s Brie Grierson for the 2019 Super League season, as all three are members of the recently-announced London Pulse squad.
Turnford were without England international George Fisher, and the injured Ellie Kelk, but they still fielded a talented squad including a number of England age group internationals and current Super League players. The starting line-ups were as follows:
Tuaine Keenan GK Sarah Davis
Genevieve Slater GD Zara Everitt
Vicky Rees WD Ellie Rattu
Ria Small C Kat Whittall
Brie Grierson WA Emily Gulvin
Ash Neal GA Chiara Semple
Abbie Le Brocq GD Nat Richardson
Grangetown edged the first quarter 14-12, although it was a tight fifteen minutes, with neither side able to gain a significant advantage. Grangetown started the better, but a 3-0 lead was quickly cancelled out by the visitors. Ash Neal then delivered a beautifully concealed pass to her shooting partner Abbie Le Brocq, who calmly found the net.
Great interplay between Brie Grierson and Abbie resulted in a clever feed to the onrushing Ash. The goal doubled the advantage, but a great read from Zara Everitt allowed Kat Whittall to collect the loose ball and with Chiara Semple looking assured in the circle, Turnford not only levelled proceedings, but took a two-goal lead of their own; the best piece of play involving Emily Gulvin, who moved right and passed left to leave Nat Richardson the easiest of chances, which was duly converted.
Ash and Brie then both showed great skill to feed Abbie for two quick goals. The first saw Ash collected the ball at pace and cleverly delay the looped pass until the defence had committed; then Brie faked a pass to Ash, which drew both Turnford defenders, leaving Abbie totally unmarked.
Nothing elaborate about the move that helped Grangetown retake the lead though, as Brie drilled a pass to her London Pulse team mate for Ash to find the net.
Tuaine Keenan’s excellent opening quarter was rounded off by a brilliant interception as a shot was being taken; but Grangetown were unable to take advantage. However, Ria Small linked up well with the attack to provide another opportunity, which Ash comfortably converted; and Abbie was on hand to finish off a brilliant passage of play to give the home side a two-goal lead on the hooter.
The second period began with yet another fine intervention from Tuaine, but again her efforts were not rewarded at the opposite end of the court. The teams traded early goals before Grangetown were fortuitously awarded an off-the-ball penalty just as they looked to have lost possession. Ash made no mistake and her next goal extended the advantage to four.
Ellie Rattu had already picked off one poor pass, then came close to intercepting a Grangetown centre pass as Turnford maintained strong defensive pressure; but a bad miss from under the post was the catalyst for a four-goal burst from Grangetown, which took the score to 25-17.
At the heart of the home defence, Tuaine and Gen Slater were working well together and claimed two crucial turnovers, but just as Grangetown looked to have gained the ascendancy, momentum suddenly swung back in favour of the visitors.
The introduction of the rather inappropriately-named Katarina Short had an immediate impact on the game, as the 6’5” shooter provided the perfect target for the Turnford attackers. The long-looped pass was very much in evidence, as Katarina’s goals began to eat into Grangetown’s lead. Great work from Ellie Rattu and Sarah Davis enabled the visitors to have enough possession to trail by just three goals at half time.
Interestingly however, despite Turnford’s late spell of dominance, Grangetown actually won the quarter by one goal. It had been an absorbing 30 minutes of high-quality netball and with the sides so evenly matched, the importance of the three-goal cushion couldn’t be underestimated.
Katie Walton replaced her Ireland team mate Gen Slater, with Tuaine moving to goal defence. There was a straight swap at goal shooter with Abbie making way from Alice Currie, for whom the game marked her home debut; and Claudia Heath came on at wing defence in place of Vicky Rees.
Whilst Grangetown’s Super League pairing of Ash and Brie often grab the headlines, the performances of Vicky and Ria in the middle of the court have been outstanding, and, after years of service to the club, both are arguably playing the best netball of their respective careers.
The break seemed to have a positive effect on Grangetown, as they scored the third quarter’s opening four goals – Katie and Alice both making an instant impact at opposite ends of the court.
However, yet another interception by Tuaine went frustratingly unrewarded as Turnford rallied with five unanswered goals of their own; but just as it looked like the margin would be down to a single goal, Turnford lost possession when the ball was deemed to have gone out of court. It looked a harsh call, but Grangetown quickly took advantage and with Alice and Ash both looking very composed in the circle, the home side quickly extended their advantage to seven.
The tactic of looping the ball into Katarina looked obvious, but when executed well, it was very hard to defend, and the visitors were finding it comparatively easy to convert from their centre passes. Likewise, Grangetown were cancelling out each Turnford goal, with Alice doing really well to flick the ball back to Ash when she was overbalancing and falling out of play.
It felt like it was a case of who would blink first and when a wayward Grangetown pass was collected by Emily Gulvin, that provided the spark for the visitors to seize the initiative, and by the end of another pulsating quarter in which 35 goals were scored, Turnford trailed by just two goals and the stage was set for an enthralling finale.
The pattern of much of the previous quarter continued as the two sides shared the first ten goals of the last quarter. Katie Walton completed an excellent turnover, which Ash converted to score against the Turnford centre pass, only for the visitors to immediately hit back from the Grangetown restart.
There were arguably two turning points: firstly, a whistle that looked likely to penalise Grangetown for a three-second violation was actually for an off-the-ball offence against the Turnford defence; and secondly, as the visitors battled to close the gap, a misplaced pass flew out of court to hand Grangetown a crucial turnover.
The home shooters took every chance that came their way, and hard as Turnford battled, Grangetown were relentless, and the final score was 62-53 in favour of last season’s Prem 2 champions.
Grangetown were superb, but if the winning margin suggests a comfortable victory, the reality is that Turnford provided a stern test, and the result was in doubt right until the final few minutes. The result was enough to lift Grangetown back into fourth position, with Viper 10 Blades loss to unbeaten Oldham (who visit Grangetown in round 8 on 2 December).
Abbie Le Brocq was the official Player of the Match, but my votes would have gone to Grangetown’s Tuaine Keenan for a fine performance at the heart of the defence, and Turnford wing attack Emily Gulvin.
After the opening four rounds of the Premier League Division 1 season, Grangetown Netball Club were in fifth position, having won their two most recent fixtures, at home to Premier Romans, and a fantastic victory away to Tameside, who had ended the 2017/18 campaign in fourth position.
Grangetown played host to Worcester Reds in round five; the Reds coming into the game on the back of a comfortable victory over Premier Romans. With both Grangetown and Worcester having lost to a strong Academy side by similar margins, everything pointed to a close encounter.
Worcester travelled with a squad of twelve players, whilst Grangetown Head Coach Gel Williams was able to hand a debut to former Team Northumbria Super League defender Tuaine Keenan. The starting sevens were as follows:
Grangetown Worcester Reds
Tuaine Keenan GK Chloe Burrow
Jenny Mrozik GD Lois Brown
Claudia Heath WD Ellie Trold
icky Rees C Erin Allport
Ria Small WA Kat Jones
Ash Neal GA Lucy Herdman
Abbie Le Brocq GS Philippa Yarranton
It was the visitors who made the brighter start, quickly cancelling out the game’s opening goal to take a 1-3 lead. Lucy Herdman’s commanding rebound was followed by good movement in the circle and a goal set up by a pass from her attacking partner Philippa Yarranton.
The visitors’ next attempt was missed and the rebound came back off the post and back into Grangetown’s hands. Lovely interplay between Ash Neal and Ria Small led to last season’s Team Northumbria captain turning down a shot to feed Abbie Le Brocq to score.
Ash and Vicky Rees then exchanged passes on the edge of the circle, before Ash found the net; and Abbie levelled the scores when a penalty was awarded against the Reds’ defence, despite Grangetown having lost possession of the ball outside the circle.
A neat flick out of the back of the hand by Ash led to the next goal, before great defensive pressure forced an error from the visitors, and the ensuing passage of play ended with Abbie claiming a great rebound and making no mistake with her shot.
Tuaine Keenan was penalised for contact after completing what looked a clean interception, but the debutante then did even better to block an attempted shot and her efforts were rewarded when Abbie netted again at the other end of the court.
8-5 quickly became 11-6 in Grangetown’s favour, with Ria’s bounce-pass into the circle giving Ash the chance to feint to shoot before netting once the defender had committed. The next two goals were shared, but a Chloe Burrow rebound gave the Reds the chance to narrow the margin.
Ash and Ria exchanged passes before a looped pass was well-taken by Abbie, who added another goal to her tally. Lucy and Philippa combined well to cancel out the goal, but great movement from Vicky and Ria found Abbie unmarked, and a quick turnover was also converted to further extend the lead; and the score after 15 minutes was 16-10 in Grangetown’s favour.
Brie Grierson was introduced for the second quarter, with Ria moving to centre. The Reds started the period with Erin Allport at wing attack, Danielle Jordan-Taft at wing defence, and Ellie Trold at centre.
An early turnover was converted by Lucy for the visitors, but Brie’s first involvement was a straightforward interception, followed by a pass that found Abbie unmarked under the net.
At the other end, excellent pressure from Jenny Mrozik forced a wayward shot; Tuaine gathered the loose ball and Ria’s almost casual looped pass was safely caught by Abbie to make it 19-11. The understanding between the attacking members of the Grangetown squad was very much in evidence, as was their collective confidence in the Abbie’s ability to take passes under pressure and also convert.
Lucy looked equally assured in the circle and she scored four of the game’s next five goals, the second of which came from a really good move involving Erin Allport. The five-goal gap was maintained as ten goals were shared, the pick being another effort from Lucy who made the most of a chance created by nice cross-court pass from Philippa and Erin’s quick feed back across the circle.
Intricate interplay from Grangetown was well defended by the Reds, but a replayed ball penalty handed possession straight back to the home side for a goal against a Worcester centre pass. A brilliant interception by Claudia Heath resulted in the ball being lost in the left-hand corner, but Worcester immediately turned over possession, and a great piece of skill from Brie, who moved to her right and fired an overarm pass to her left, allowed Abbie to score.
Ellie Trold’s excellent pass set up Philippa, before lightning-fast interplay between Ash and Brie ended with another goal from Abbie. There was time for one more Grangetown goal, after possession was secured by great defensive work by Tuaine, who forced an error, and Gen Slater, who collected the ball and set up the attack from which Abbie netted once again.
At 31-23, Grangetown had extended their lead, but Worcester were playing some excellent attacking netball and arguably deserved to have maintained, if not reduced the first-quarter gap.
Katie Walton was brought on at half-time, alongside her Ireland international defensive partner; and Katie made an immediate impact by getting a hand in the way of an attacking pass, but possession was wasted and Philippa’s high floated shot was successful. Ria and Brie both fed Abbie to score, before a brilliant passage of play saw Grangetown’s lead extend to twelve – firstly Claudia superbly claimed possession, before Brie’s sublime no-look pass was converted by Abbie.
Brie and Claudia then combined down the right side of the court; Brie’s bullet pass back to Claudia on the edge of the goal third was immediately returned; one pass later and Abbie made it 39-25.
Worcester were still producing some excellent play of their own, with Erin right at the heart of most of the Reds’ best moves. Her pass to Kat Jones and the subsequent feed to Philippa was one of the highlights of the period.
At times though, Grangetown were irresistible. So strong in defence, with quick transition down the court and, high conversion rates. One move between Brie and Ash was completed at almost walking pace, yet the movement of the ball was so fast; it was a joy to watch.
Georgia Willetts was brought on at goal keeper for the visitors and she made a n excellent interception, but Lucy’s shot fell short and Katie picked off the rebound as the hooter sounded.
There was a scrappy start to the final period, with both sides making a number of errors – perhaps not too much of a surprise given the pace and intensity of the first 45 minutes.
A great feed from Ash saw Abbie bring up the Grangetown half century. Brie then drew her defender and floated a simple pass for Abbie to score. Some superb defensive pressure from Grangetown was more than matched by even better movement from the Worcester attackers, and the subsequent goal made it 54-40 to Grangetown.
Erin was involved in much of the visitors’ best netball, but she was made to fight for every pass and every yard of space by Vicky, and the contest between the Grangetown captain and the Reds’ wing attack was a feature of the closing quarter.
As the game entered its closing minutes, Cathy Hewitt was brought on at wing attack, with Brie taking the goal attack bib, and Ash replacing Ria who had been so influential at centre. Brie scored with her first (and as it turned out only) shot, with Worcester completing the scoring.
Grangetown were 60-42 to the good at full-time – their third win in succession – but Worcester more than played their part in a hugely entertaining game. It is hard to pick a Player of the Match at the end of such a fine squad performance, but Brie Grierson was magnificent at wing attack. For Worcester, the pace, skill and energy of Erin Allport stood out, although Lucy Herdman also had a very strong game.
Here’s what Brie had to say after the match…
“This is my third year with the club and with each year, the squad has just kept improving. It’s great that we’ve kept so many of the players that took us up from Prem 3 and through Prem 2; and the new girls that have come to the club have fitted in so well.
“We’ve maybe had a bit of a slow start over the past couple of years, but we’re only five games into this season and the whole squad is already playing so well. It’s just great to be involved. I’m so thankful to Geraldine and the club. I really appreciate that she’s stood by me – I love Grangetown and wherever my career takes me, I hope I can keep playing here…
“Today’s win was great, but you would have not expected a team where they [Worcester] are in the league to have produced a performance like that. Every quarter was really tough and I’m honestly shocked they’re not higher up the league.”
The result lifted Grangetown one place to fourth … the fourth best club in the entire country. Great news to round off a fantastic day for everyone involved with Grangetown Netball Club.
Official Player of the Match: Ria Small
My Players of the Match: Brie Grierson (Grangetown), Erin Allport (Worcester)
All images © Caed Parker of Class4Studios.com