London Pulse 40, Celtic Dragons 67
Celtic Dragons turned on the style with a smooth, cohesive and vibrant team display at the Copper Box Arena in London.
Captain Nia Jones and her Dragons were ruthless, winning all four quarters including a 20-7 scoreline in the second.
They kept Pulse under pressure in all areas and controlled the mid-court with centre Kyra Jones, wing-defence Nia Jones wing-attack Suzy Drane in near perfect harmony at times.
A key factor was the return of silky-smooth WA Drane, who was unavailable for Dragons’ opening game against Team Bath.
That meant the Jones’ girls, Nia and Kyra, who both played out of position to cover against Team Bath, were both back in their preferred positions and the difference was clearly evident.
Pulse included England’s Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning defender Ama Agbeze at goalkeeper, but there was no stopping Dragons in this mood.
Head coach Tania Hoffman was delighted with her team, but warned: “We still have an awfully long way to go.”
Hoffman was concerned about the turnovers conceded by her team at times plus the failure to fully follow through on turnovers of their own.
Those issues will be worked on before Dragons travel to play Severn Stars in their next match on Friday, January 25.
“That’s the first time we strung together a lot of the things we have been working on in training,” said Hoffman as her players warmed down on court at the end of the match.
“There were a lot of turnovers given away and we failed to capitalise on those we gained. They are among the factors we must work on.
“It was good to have Suzy back at WA and everybody played their part in a big team performance. There was no standout player. A huge team effort.
“A win like this helps build confidence, but we must keep working and progressing.”
Next up for Dragons is @SevernStars away in Round 3 on Friday 25 January in Gloucester.
— Celtic Dragons (@celtic_dragons) January 12, 2019
Dragons centre Kyra Jones said: “A solid effort by all involved. So proud to be a part of this group and looking forward to seeing what this bunch of ladies can produce for the rest of the season.”
Dragons played at the Copper Box Arena in London, but there were only a couple of hundred spectators which could accommodate 7,500 people.
The movement, commitment and intensity of Dragons players was breathtaking at times, but their passing was quick and decisive.
Errors crept in during the fourth quarter, but after two Vitality Superleague matches it’s clear Celtic Dragons will play with a fervour and passion opposing teams won’t be comfortable with.
Personally, I enjoyed the strong and silky partnership between Trinidad and Tobago goal-attack Kalifa McCollin and goal-shooter Chelsea Lewis.
McCollin scored 27 goals from 27 attempts for a 100 per cent strike rate, while Lewis fire 37 from 41, an impressive 90 per cent.
In mid-court the Jones’ girls and Drane were constantly creating in possession and challenging when Pulse had the ball.
At the back Jamaican goalkeeper Stacian Facey and flying Fijian Dee Bolakoro made life incredibly difficult for the home team.
Former Dragons and Wales coach Melissa Hyndman was on the bench for Pulse, working on coaching alongside Te Aroha Keenan and they were shocked by the comprehensive cannot of the Dragons victory.
The Welsh team stuck with their starting seven for more than three periods before sending on Lucy Herdman for Lewis at GS and Abby Tyrrell for Bolakoro at GD.
Quarter scores (Pulse first) 12-15; 7-20 (19-35); 7-15 (26-50); 14-17 (40-67).
London Pulse: GS Shantal Slater, GA Chiara Semple, WA Ash Neal, C Fionnula Toner, WD Taylor Cullen, GD Jasmin Odeogberin, GK Ama Agbeze. Reps: Honor De Winton, Brie Grierson, Loreen Ngwira, Olivia Tchine, Frankie Wells
Celtic Dragons: GS Chelsea Lewis, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Suzy Drane, C Kyra Jones, WD Nia Jones (rapt), GD Dee Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Reps: Lucy Herdman, Lucy Howells, Ellie Nawele, Eleanor Roberts, Abigail Tyrrell.
Other Vitality Superleague results last night: Strathclyde Sirens 45, Team Bath 55; Loughborough Lightning 52, Severn Stars 44; Surrey Storm 39, Saracens Mavericks 59.
Dragons 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 v Severn Stars (away, 7.30pm)
Monday 4 v Saracens Mavericks (home, 7pm)
Friday 8 v Strathclyde Sirens (away, 7.30pm)
Monday 18 v Wasps (home, 7pm)
Monday 25 v Manchester Thunder (home, 7pm)
Saturday 2 v Surrey Storm (away, 6pm)
Saturday 9 v Loughborough Lightning (home, 4pm)
Saturday 16 v Team Bath (away, 5pm)
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)
For home match ticket information click on the Dragons name Celtic Dragons