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