Team Bath 56, Celtic Dragons 50
Celtic Dragons have underlined time and again this season they are improving, but it’s time they should prove their point.
Head coach Tania Hoffman and her Dragons have battled against the best teams in Vitality Netball Superleague and shown they can compete with the best.
After all, they have a rich mix of talent from Jamaica, Fiji, England, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago plus, of course, Wales – and coach Hoffman is a Kiwi.
There is a need to progress, but Dragons are doing exactly that and have earned the respect of Superleague teams under Hoffman.
Team Bath, five times winner of the national netball title, were favourites at home, but they were decidedly unsettled at 14-14 after the first and were more than unhappy when Dragons won the third 15-13.
Almost 1,000 spectators at the Team Bath Arena felt uncomfortable and were relieved when their team earned a six-points win.
Bath’s head coach Anna Stembridge is a former Wales international who has played Commonwealth Games and World Championship netball for her country and said: “Ultimately we are pleased to earn the win, but there are still things we want to build on and put right.
“We were too wasteful in terms of our turnover ball, particularly in the second quarter when we had an opportunity to pull away.
“You never feel comfortable in this league. No opponent is easy and we knew Dragons would be tough. They have had some really good performances this season, so we are happy to get the points.”
Lucy Herdman started at Goal-Shooter alongside Goal-Attack Khalifa McCollin and Dragons went toe-to-toe with Bath. The teams were locked at 14-14 after the opening quarter.
Bath stepped things up and edged ahead by half-time, but they were pulled back by Dragons, who won the third quarter 15-13.
At that stage the match could easily have gone either way and Bath had to be at their best to see off the Welsh challenge.
The next two Dragons Superleague matches are at home, against London Pulse next Monday (March 25) and Severn Stars the following Saturday (March 30).
There is no question Dragons will target wins in both fixtures.
Team Bath Netball kicked off their run of three home Superleague games in nine days with a hard-fought victory over Dragons.
The Blue & Gold struggled to produce their best netball as they were put under pressure by spirited opposition, who reduced a five-goal half-time deficit to three going into the final quarter.
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, named Bath’s player of the match for a third successive game, said: “It was tough and Dragons really pushed us. They forced us to keep battling right to the very end.”
Dragons were inspired by fine finishing from Herdman and McCollin, who piled on the pressure for Bath and the nervous tension was clear on and off the court as more mistakes crept into the home play.
Team Bath’s lead was reduced to 43-40 going into the final quarter.
A brilliant turnover by Abi Robson, converted by Beryl Friday, set Team Bath off to the confident start they needed and good pressure across the court meant they were finally able to pull away and secure a six-goal victory against tough opposition.
Team Bath starting 7: GS Kim Commane, GA Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, WA Rachel Shaw, C Mia Ritchie, WD Imogen Allison, GD Eboni Usoro-Brown, GK Summer Artman. Reps: Leila Thomas, Abi Robson, Serena Guthrie, Laura Rudland, Beryl Friday.
Celtic Dragons starting 7: GS Lucy Herdman, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Suzy Drane, C Kyra Jones, WD Nia Jones, GD Adi Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Reps: Bethan Dyke, Clare Elsley, Lydia Hitchings, Eleanor Roberts, Abby Tyrrell.
Quarter scores (Bath first): 14-14; 16-11 (30-25); 13-15 (43-40); 13-10 (56-50).
Celtic Dragons TICKETS
Dragons results/fixtures 2019 – home games played at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff.
Celtic Dragons 41, Team Bath 58
Saturday 12 London Pulse 40, Celtic Dragons 67
Friday 25 Severn Stars 57, Celtic Dragons 40
Monday 4 Celtic Dragons 44, Saracens Mavericks 66
Friday 8 Strathclyde Sirens 46, Celtic Dragons 50
Monday 18 Celtic Dragons 46, Wasps 58
Monday 25 Celtic Dragons 56, Manchester Thunder 83
Saturday 2 Surrey Storm 46, Celtic Dragons 48
Saturday 9 Celtic Dragons 57, Loughborough Lightning 70
Saturday 16 Team Bath 56, Celtic Dragons 50
Monday 25 v London Pulse (home, 7pm)
Saturday 30 v Severn Stars (home, 4pm)
Saturday 6 v Manchester Storm (away, 5pm)
Saturday 3 v Strathclyde Sirens (home, 4pm)
Saturday 20 v Saracens Mavericks (away, midday)
Sunday 21 v Wasps (away, midday)
Saturday 27 v Surrey Storm (home 4pm)
Saturday 4 Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (6pm)