Former Vitality Netball Superleague champions Team Bath proved that they are still firmly in the hunt for play off places in the 2017 competition, with a nerve-jangling 55-53 victory over Wasps at the Bath Sports Village. The win moves Bath into fifth place in the table, level on points with Surrey Storm and still in contention for the end of season prizes.

Inspired by a majestic defensive performance from captain Eboni Beckford Chambers, who was justly named player of the match, Bath harried and hassled Wasps from the first whistle, closing down the attacking space available to the visitors, and taking clean interceptions through the midcourt to turn defence into attack. Goal defence Layla Guscoth snatch possession from Wasps on their first attacking drive, and the scene was set for a thrilling, entertaining game which was packed with incident throughout.

Bath started with Welsh international Chelsea Lewis at GS, and her reach and confidence to go for goal soon allowed the home side to pull ahead. Guscoth, Beckford-Chambers and WD Imogen Allison kept the Wasps offensive line guessing, cleverly closing down spaces to force a lofted ball, which the nippy Bath midcourt pounced on and quickly converted into goals. At the end of the first quarter Bath led 14-10.

Bath coach Anna Stembridge shuffled her line up at the start of the second quarter, moving Lewis to GA and bringing on Jamaican international Shantal Slater. The change initially flummoxed Wasps backline, with Slater’s athletic reach and clever manoeuvring of her body position giving the home side a four goal run. However, England U21 shooter George Fisher was not to be outdone for Wasps, and used impressively fast footwork to create her own shooting opportunities which kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors. Close defensive work by both teams ensured that neither could pull ahead, and by half time, Wasps had narrowed the gap by one, still trailing 28-25.

Bath’s Caribbean connection, of Slater and her Jamaican teammate Vangelee Williams, who was introduced at the start of the third quarter, piled on the pressure in the third period. Williams took several impressive interceptions, which enabled her team to kickstart new attacking moves, and Bath used the increased possession, swinging the ball across the attacking third to wrongfoot the Wasps defence and open up room for their shooters. Slater took full advantage, netting 11 from 12 for the quarter to pull the home side into a 44-35 lead with 15 minutes to play.

Wasps coach Tamsin Greenway took to the court for the final quarter at WA, alongside perennial shooting partner Rachel Dunn, recovered from a recent injury, and initially, the changes switched the momentum of the game back to the visitors. Wasps slowly clawed their way back into the match, with Greenway and Msomi providing a stream of fast-paced first time ball into Dunn’s hands, which the veteran shooter duly converted.

Slater kept Bath in the hunt, but a series of crucial turnovers, forced by intense Wasps pressure, gave the visitors new impetus, and the scores were levelled with two minutes to play 52-all. However, Beckford-Chambers was not about to give the league’s newcomers a famous victory, and with two minutes on the clock, urged her side on once again with some vocal encouragement. Guscoth duly obliged, making a clutch interception which Slater duly converted, to edge Bath ahead. Two further Slater goals followed to put the game out of Wasps reach, and despite a Dunn goal on the buzzer, Bath took a famous victory to take them level on points with Surrey Storm in fourth place in the table.

Speaking after the game, Beckford Chambers was full of praise for her team: “That was a performance that took real guts – a phenomenal effort from the whole team. This squad has so much belief, and really showed its grit tonight. Wasps will definitely hurt from this, but we should be really pleased to take the win – now we have to press on to take that play off spot.”

Team Bath 55 def Wasps 52
Player of the Match: Rachel Shaw (Bath)

Starting line ups

Team Bath: GS Lewis, GA Rudland, WA R Shaw, C Ritchie, WD Allison, GD Guscoth, GK Beckford Chambers
Changes/substitutions: Q2: Slater to GA, J Shaw to C (Ritchie), Q3: WD V Williams, Q4: Allison to WD (Williams)

Wasps: GS Fisher, GA Haythornthwaite, WA L Harris, C Msomi, WD May, GD Reid (capt), GK Huckle
Changes/substitutions: Q3: C Flanagan, Msomi to WA, Q4: GS Dunn, WA Greenway, GD F Williams, Reid to GK

Team Bath
Lewis 22/27 82%
Slater 33/35 94%
55/62 89%

Wasps
Fisher 30/33 91%
Haythornthwaite 7/10 70%
Dunn 16/16 100%
52/58 90%

Umpires: Gary Burgess and Ian Fuller

Twitter: @FluffyRona