The visitors had been magnificent in last season’s corresponding encounter, and have arguably been the best side to have visited the north east since Grangetown began competing at a national level.
For this game however, both clubs were affected by international call-ups for the Netball Europe Open Championships which were taking place in Northern Ireland. Four of Grangetown’s squad were representing the Republic of Ireland, including regular defensive pairing Genevieve Slater and Katie Walton, who was playing for the first time under her married name of Knox. New Cambell were without Northern Ireland’s Michelle Drayne as well as teenage defender Funmi Fadoju who was making her full England debut – hopefully the start of a long and successful international career for this outstanding young athlete.
With a depleted defence, Jenny Mrozik played despite struggling with a knee injury and Rebecca Thompson made her Grangetown debut at goal defence. Grangetown vice-captain Ria Small took her place in the starting seven after scans revealed a cheekbone injury sustained the previous week was not a fracture as had been first feared; and Brie Grierson’s availability was a major boost to Grangetown’s attacking potential.
Both sides had suffered round 1 losses, New Cambell to newly-promoted Hucclecote and Grangetown to Tameside, so even at this early stage of the season, the game represented an important opportunity to register that crucial first win.
Ash Neal then found her attacking partner Abbie Le Brocq unmarked for the score, only for Paige and Rochelle to almost replicate the move at the opposite end of the court.
The Grangetown attacking trio of Abbie, Ash and Brie then combined superbly to reduce the arrears, and when New Cambell were penalised for delaying their centre pass, Brie’s looped pass was converted by Ash. Abbie levelled the scores before Grangetown turned over possession and an assured long-range effort from Abbie edged the home side in front for the first time.
Paige and Rochelle then combined well to narrow the gap and when Grangetown lost possession, Rochelle collected a rebound to being parity to proceedings.
8-8 became 12-12 with Vicky Rees producing a fine turnover and Abbie superbly gathering a bullet pass from Brie to score. Lovely interplay between Paige and Ellie Gibbons saw the wing attack feed Rochelle to edge the visitors in front.
Ash levelled, before Ellie delivered another fine pass to set up her shooter. At the other end of the court, Lindsay Keable nudged the ball out of play, but despite intense pressure from both visiting defenders, Abbie did well to claim the ball and find the net.
Jenny Mrozik picked off a speculative pass, and Ria Small bounced the ball to Ash whose successful shot rounded off a fine move.
Ellie’s neat turn saw her spin past her marker to set up New Cambell’s next goal, but a wayward pass then hit the wing attack in the back to give Grangetown possession. Abbie appeared to have the ball knocked out of her hand when attempting a shot, but the umpire ruled against the home side.
New Cambell then made a rare handling error to hand possession back to Grangetowm. Ash scored, but great strength under pressure by Rochelle was rewarded by the goal that separated the sides at the end of a pulsating opening quarter.
Grangetown immediately put the visitors under pressure, but New Cambell were comfortable in possession and were able to extend their lead to four goals before Ash’s delayed pass fooled both defenders and Abbie opened Grangetown’s account.
Lindsay then got a hand to a pass and earned possession as the ball touched Abbie on the way out of court. An overthrown pass bobbled into the grateful hands of Grangetown captain Vicky Rees, but the subsequent shot was missed, Lindsay collected the rebound and, after a quick transition down the court, Rochelle continued her impressive form under the net.
New Cambell’s lead fluctuated between three and four goals, but the best move did not actually result in a goal. Centre Beth Dix, who made her Super League debut for Wasps in March, exchanged passes with three separate team mates before feeding into the circle when the opening appeared. Unfortunately, an attacking contact call denied New Cambell the goal that Beth’s skill deserved, but after Ash had netted for Grangetown, Beth again showed excellent composure to deal with more intense defensive pressure and deliver a telling ball for another goal.
Paige then made a crucial contribution in mid-court, managing to sneak in front of Vicky to steal possession. The resulting goal was cancelled out by Abbie’s lovely disguised pass to Ash, and Vicky then completed another turnover from which Ash scored.
Ash ‘s next goal narrowed the gap to just one, but New Cambell doubled their advantage with a well-taken goal, although Jenny was unfortunate not to claim possession with a spectacular attempted flying interception.
Beth read a pass from her opposite number, but Ellie’s pass rebounded off the post and back to Grangetown. Abbie reduced the arrears and the next two goals were shared; but Grangetown missed an opportunity to level the scores and the half-time hooter sounded with New Cambell 30-31 to the good.
It had been an excellent half, played at a furious pace, with both sides showing attacking flair and great defensive intensity.
Abbie scored at the start of the third quarter, but as well as scoring from their next three centre passes, Linday and Steph Collard both secured turnovers and in a matter of moments, New Cambell were five goals in front. Ash bounced a pass across court to Ria and rushed into the circle to collect the return feed from her centre and score.
Grangetown continued to battle, but struggled to make inroads into the visitors’ lead. Brie was having a fine game at wing attack and she set up a number of chances, but after Ria’s interception allowed Ash to score, Lindsay got a touch to a pass and managed a backhand flick to a team mate to ensure the goal against the centre pass was immediately cancelled out.
At 35-43, New Cambell were very much in charge, but by the end of the period, the lead had been halved as Grangetown rallied once again. Rebecca Thompson, who was having a solid debut, was unlucky to be penalised as Ellie (now at goal attack) missed a lay-up shot, and when Abbie netted at the second attempt, the scoreboard read 42-46 as the hooter brought the quarter to a close.
Grangetown made a great start to the final period, with Rebecca and Vicky effecting a turnover and Ash’s movement attracting the attention of both defenders, which allowed Ria to loop the ball to an unmarked Abbie.
The lead was down to one after Abbie scored again, but Beth’s feed was well-collected by Rochelle who made no mistake with her shot. Ash netted from distance before Jenny claimed possession for the home side. Sensational play from Brie and Ash saw the new Manchester Thunder signing level the scores.
The momentum seemed to be all with Grangetown, but their next attack came to an abrupt end when Ash was penalised for what sounded like obstruction, despite no other player being close to her. It was a decision that baffled players and spectators alike, but New Cambell took full advantage before a well-disguised feed from Ellie to Rochelle gave the visitors a two-goal cushion.
Grangetown managed to secure possession only to be penalised by a “not set” call on the backline. The resulting goal was quickly cancelled out and Grangetown again got to within one goal; but hard as they fought, the hosts were unable to draw level and with time starting to run out, New Cambell stayed strong, punished every error and by full time, the visitors ran out winners 56-63.
It had been a thoroughly entertaining game, and although Grangetown’s performance was much-improved from their opening fixture, the final result was still disappointing. For New Cambell, they showed composure at the most crucial moments and deserved the win; but the final margin of seven goals belies how close a match this actually was.
Brie Grierson was Grangetown’s best performer on the day, but the player of the match was undoubtedly New Cambell’s Beth Dix, whose movement and passing were of the highest quality.