Grangetown played host to Thoroughbreds in today’s Prem 3 encounter, looking to follow up the previous weekend’s superb win against Leyton and consolidate second place in the table behind runaway leaders Sussex Thunder.
Thoroughbreds, who were relegated from Prem 2 along with Grangetown last season, travelled up from Norwich just one place above the foot of the table, with two wins from their opening ten fixtures.
Grangetown were without Ireland defender Gen Slater, as well as youngsters Jay Robinson and Brie Grierson, but one of the club’s most promising teenagers Hannah Raine returned to the squad after recovering from knee surgery.
Grangetown starting line-up
GK: Katie Walton
GD: Jenny Mrozik
WD: Vicky Rees (captain)
C: Ria Small
WA: Kate Hill
GA: Tasha Grylls
GS: Abbie le Brocq
The visitors opened the scoring after just sixteen seconds and then took advantage of a replayed ball penalty to take an early two-goal lead. An interception from Grangetown’s Ireland international Katie Walton led to Abbie le Brocq’s first goal of the afternoon and the Harrogate-born shooter quickly converted a lobbed pass from Tasha Grylls to level the scores.
This set the pattern for an opening fifteen minutes in which the sides were only once separated by more than two goals. There were a couple of frustrating turnovers from Grangetown centre passes, but this Grangetown side has gelled extremely well and has grown in self-belief throughout the season; they weathered the visitors’ strong start and finally edged in front during the final minute of the quarter.
Kate Hill’s clever delayed pass set up Abbie le Brocq to make the score 3-3, but two of the next three Thoroughbreds goals came from long-range, and the accuracy of the visitors’ shooting was a feature of not just the opening period, but for the majority of the game.
Ria Small was prominent in the Grangetown recovery. Three successive goals again levelled matters at 7-7 before a fine intercept and long ball down court found the Thoroughbreds shooter unopposed under the net.
Much of Grangetown’s success came from lofted passes into the circle, allowing Abbie le Brocq to take advantage of both her height, but also her ability to catch the ball under pressure. A couple of overthrown passes cost Grangetown possession, but the tactic also reaped plenty of rewards, and a rare Thoroughbreds miss was punished by three quick goals, and at the hooter, the hosts led 14-12.
Grangetown started the second quarter in fine style. The defensive tri of Jenny Mrozik, Katie Walton and Vicky Rees worked incredibly hard to deny space to the opposing attackers and a couple of telling contributions from Katie Walton turned over possession and resulted in Grangetown scoring the opening five goals, a total of eight without reply.
Thoroughbreds eventually got back on the scoresheet and the teams traded goals throughout the remainder of the second period. Katie Walton was in dominant form, and secured two more interceptions, although only one led to a goal—another for Abbie le Brocq after some excellent work from Kate Hill.
The experience of Vicky Rees and Ria Small may be in contrast to the presence of three teenagers at the attacking end of the court, but a strong understanding is developing within the squad and the on-court blend of youth and experience is producing some dynamic and entertaining netball.
Sixteen-year-old Tasha Grylls was having an assured afternoon. She was not getting many shooting chances, but her passing and movement really tested the visiting defenders and opened up numerous opportunities for passes to be fed to her partner.
Grangetown were pressing strongly without the ball, but the Norfolk-based side remained a constant threat, and three unanswered goals quickly reduced the arrears to 25-21.
As the half drew to a close, Ria Small’s excellent catch and feed into the circle enabled Abbie le Brocq to extend the lead back to six goals, but a footwork penalty against the shooter gave possession to Thoroughbreds and the period’s final goal left the scoreline 30-25 in favour of the league’s second-placed club.
Another fifteen minutes of competitive and hugely entertaining netball ultimately resulted in no change to the five-goal difference between the teams, although at one stage Thoroughbreds closed to within three.
At 33-30, Vicky Rees produced a vital interception, and the ball was moved quickly down the court for Tasha Grylls to convert. The Thoroughbreds centre was then penalised for offside, and Tasha Grylls opted to pass instead of shoot and Abbie le Brocq calmly netted to restore the five-goal advantage.
The visitors responded, but Katie Walton produced yet another interception to regain possession and when Jenny Mrozik managed to get a crucial touch to allow her defensive partner to complete another turnover, Abbie le Brocq’s subsequent goal felt decisive.
Grangetown were unlucky to lose possession when the rebound from a missed shot hit Vicky Rees on the leg and bobbled back to the Thoroughbreds’ shooter, but within seconds Kate Hill enjoyed a similar slice of fortune to retain possession and set up another scoring opportunity.
Jenny Mrozik got a hand to two passes and both Vicky Rees and Kate Hill both made telling interceptions as Grangetown maintained their pressure and intensity, but with the scoreboard reading 39-34 at the end of the quarter, Thoroughbreds were still very much in the game and their performance certainly belied their position in the table.
An unchanged Grangetown needed a good start to the final period, and scoring five of the opening six goals would surely have quelled any nerves. The highlight was a bullet pass from Kate Hill that was brilliantly claimed by a closely-marked Tasha Grylls, before the teenager calmly netted.
Thoroughbreds simply refused to give up and responded with five successive goals, but after a great catch and shot from Abbie le Brocq, an overthrown pass gifted possession to Grangetown and the subsequent goal finally broke the visitors.
From 45-40, Grangetown raced into a 55-42 lead to guarantee a seventh win of the season. Each side managed one last goal each and the final hooter signalled a 56-43 success for Grangetown.
A thirteen-goal margin looks emphatic, but that would be unfair on a Thoroughbreds side that was a very real threat for more than fifty minutes of what was a thoroughly enjoyable encounter.
The opposing shooters were excellent, but I was particularly impressed with wing attack Zoe Groves. For Grangetown, it was a superb team performance and it would be possible to argue a case for any of the seven players to be named Player of the Match, but my vote would have gone to Tasha Grylls, just ahead of Katie Walton.