Celtic Dragons 25 Team Northumbria 54
Leeds Carnegie 36 Team Bath 69
Team Northumbria assured themselves of a place in the end of season play offs of the Co-operative Netball Superleague after a businesslike 54-25 win over Celtic Dragons at the Welsh Institute of Sport today. The win gives the North East side an unassailable position in the top four of the league with two weeks of the regular season still to play, and they will now be able to start looking forward to the first round of play offs, which takes place at the Ponds Forge Centre in Sheffield on 15 March 2008.
For Team Northumbria, Australia Lara MacLeod was once again the inspiration, with 33 goals from 35 attempts and some superb interlinking play with veteran shooter Lisa Stanley. After Team Northumbria took the first quarter 16-7, Dragons rallied in the second, with Welsh international shooter Cara Lee Moseley giving her side fresh impetus, linking well with 19 year old Amanda Trounce and netting some key goals to keep the Dragons in contention. Sara Hale and Emma Bliss upped the pressure on the Northumbria attack, but the visitors were too strong, taking the quarter 9-8 to lead 25-15 at half time.
Following an injury to Lisa Stanley midway through the second period, Elissa Macleod moved into the Northumbria circle at GA and her additional pace and rotational play made things very difficult for the Dragons defence in the third quarter. Team Northumbria captain Kelly Martin, now at C, was tireless in both attack and defence, and combined well with former England U21 Vicky Burgess to create an effective supply of ball for their shooters, which Lara McLeod, in particular, took full advantage of. The visitors took the quarter 13-3 to put the result almost out of the Dragons’ reach with one quarter remaining.
Both coaches shuffled their line ups for the final quarter – Dragons’ Anna Mayes took the opportunity to give court time to several of her more inexperienced players, while Northumbria’s Denise Egan tested additional combinations ahead of the play offs to come. Inspirational Kiwi Megan Hutton moved out to GD, while Rochelle Quigley was introduced at GK, and England U19 Emma Lonsdale joined the game at WA. However, the changes did nothing to affect Northumbria’s rhythm, and despite the best that Dragons could throw at them, the Tynesiders powered on to take another win.