The fixture was a repeat of last season’s round 7 clash, which was a thrilling encounter which Grangetown won 62-53; a scoreline that belied just how closely-match the teams actually were. The current Turnford squad looked every bit as strong, and an equally entertaining and hard-fought game was anticipated.
Grangetown were without Brie Grierson and Tuaine Keenan, both of whom had started last November’s clash; however, Kyra Jones, who had been so influential in the previous week’s outstanding win at Cumberland, was again able to line-up alongside her sister Ash Neal and make her home debut for the club.
The Turnford squad included Surrey Storm’s Emily Gulvin, who had been outstanding in last year’s fixture; and also Chiara Semple, the London Pulse shooter being renowned for her accuracy from any distance inside the circle.
The starting sevens were:
Grangetown: GK Katie Knox, GD Jenny Mrozik, WD Vicky Rees, C Kyra Jones, WA Ria Small, GA Ash Neal, GS Abbie le Brocq
Turnford: GK Stephanie Lewis-Smith, GD Ella Onyems, WD Ellie Rattu, C Kat Whittall, WA Emily Gulvin, GA Chiara Semple, GS Sienna Rushton
Perhaps not unexpectedly, the main feature of the opening quarter turned out to be Chiara Semple’s shooting, which ranged from the impressive to the sublime. Distance was no object to the New Zealand-born goal attack, and her 100% accuracy helped the visitors take a 14-17 lead into the break at the end of the first quarter.
Emily Gulvin was also involved in much of Turnford’s best work, with several superb feeds helping to set up opportunities for the shooters.
Grangetown were competing well right across the court, but a couple of handling errors and expensive misses under the net handed the early initiative to Turnford, and their more clinical finishing was effectively the difference between the sides at this stage.
The opening minutes of the second quarter were littered with turnovers, whether from penalties, mistakes or excellent individual interventions. Emily Gulvin’s movement and passing continued to cause problems, and Sienna Rushton at goal shooter was also making her mark on proceedings.
Kyra and Ash were at the heart of a Grangetown revival; Kyra’s defensive pressure and intuitive passing complementing her sister’s wonderful ability to create space and openings. Ash and Abbie le Brocq brought the scores level at 22-22, before a brilliant defensive interception from Ella Onyems turned over possession.
Ella soon claimed another turnover by collecting a rebound and Turnford took full advantage with ball in hand to take a four-goal advantage into half-time.
The Grangetown defensive trio of Katie Knox, Jenny Mrozik and Vicky Rees had all worked hard to secure interceptions or turnovers during the first 30 minutes, but the combination of Chiara Semple and Sienna Rushton in the circle, and Emily Gulvin and Kat Whittall through the court had been really effective, and Grangetown made a number of changes in order to try and overturn the deficit.
At the other end of the court, the attacking flair of Ria Small, Kyra and Ash was obvious, but was also being tested by a strong defensive unit, in which Ella Onyems was becoming increasingly influential.
Genevieve Slater joined Jenny Mrozik in defence, Becks Thompson came on at wing defence, Vicky Rees moved to centre with Kyra taking the wing attack bib, and Alice Currie replaced Abbie le Brocq at goal shooter.
Alice quickly found her range as the sides traded goals, but Grangetown twice lost possession from their own centre pass, once due to a breaking penalty, the other a passing error, and on both occasions, the new Turnford shooter Katarina Short converted the subsequent opportunities.
It will no doubt have been mentioned on numerous occasions, but at roughly 6’5”, Katarina’s surname is very much a misnomer; and with Chiara Semple still scoring seemingly effortlessly, Katarina’s strength and ability to catch long feeds under pressure proved another challenge for the home side.
Having given Oldham’s Kathryn Turner with a few uncomfortable moments a fortnight earlier, Becks Thompson again made an impact at wing defence; and it was fascinating to watch the contest between Becks and Emily Gulvin, two outstanding young athletes.
Turnford took a seven-goal lead into the final period, and Ella Onyems immediately turned over possession as Grangetown looked for a way back into the game. Grangetown kept fighting and threatening to claw back the deficit, but Ellie Rattu at goal defence made two interceptions from the centre pass that were as crucial as they were outstanding.
On three occasions, Grangetown almost snatched possession, but each time the ball fell straight into the visitors’ hands. Gen Slater was particularly unlucky as she jumped superbly to tip away a shot from Chiara Semple, only for the ricochet to hand the shooter a second chance to convert.
Still Grangetown kept pressing and with time running out, all seven players had played a part in reducing the lead to just two goals, and they had forced a vital turnover after a nervous-looking Turnford feed went out of court...
A quick restart was followed by a long, speculative pass down the court, but the ball evaded the Grangetown shooters. However, even if the ball had been taken and the goal scored, there would not have been time for the home side to try and equalise as the hooter sounded; the final scoreline reading 59-61 to Turnford.
It was a thrilling finish but also a frustrating result, as Grangetown had worked extremely hard to turn over plenty of possession throughout the four quarters. The commitment and determination were first class, but unfortunately, on too many occasions, Grangetown were unable to capitalise on their good work; and it would be difficult to deny that Turnford deserved their success.
The contributions of Emily Gulvin and Chiara Semple have been highlighted, but the overall Player of the Match had to be Ella Onyems for her wonderful athleticism, strength and anticipation at the heart of the visitor’s defence.