“If you build it, they will come.” says Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams. When rugby side Wasps announced a foray into the world of netball, many dismissed their ambitions. Slowly, but surely, the side took shape. Coach Tamsin Greenway joined the new franchise from 2016 champions Surrey Storm and a host of players switched allegiances at the start of the season to be in at the start of a new venture.

At the Barclaycard Arena for the Final Four series, the faith of those players and Greenway was upheld as the Wasps, the side which ended the regular season in second place in the league, lifted the Vitality Netball Superleague title after a nerve-jangling 55-51 win over Loughborough Lightning.

Photo: twitter.com/Wasps_Netball

 

Starting line ups

Loughborough Lightning: GS Proscovia, GA Walker, WA Joseph, C Panagarry, WD Cobden, GD Oyesola, GK Trip
Changes: None

Wasps: GS Dunn, GA Haythornthwaite, WA Greenway, C Msomi, WD Flanagan, GD Reid, GK Huckle
Changes: Q3: GD May, Reid to GK

 

At the heart of the Wasps victory was an outstanding performance from South African Bongiwe Msomi, who marshalled her troops in both attack and defence, and led by example in snapping up key interceptions and forcing crucial errors at crunch times of the match. Ably supported by the tireless Amy Flanagan at WD and player/coach Tamsin Greenway, Wasps’ midcourt snuffed out the opportunity for Loughborough to employ their fast, flat through-court attacking pattern, and closed down the opportunities around the circle edge for simple feeds into the prolific Peace Proscovia.

Wasps led by a single goal at the end of the first period 16-15, but only after closing down the Lightning attack and clawing back a four goal deficit. Wasps captain Hannah Reid led by example, forcing the athletic Walker to use all of her guile to even take a pass into the circle, and with Msomi snapping up anything but the most accurate ball, the stage was set for a nail-biting affair.

Loughborough regrouped at the start of the second period, scoring four goals on the trot by using their typically fast transition to goal from defence to keep Wasps thinking. The Lightning defensive unit was working overtime to close down space in the Coventry side’s attacking third, forcing them to swing the ball from side to side in order to release shooter Rachel Dunn in space.

Although Dunn took most of her feeds into the circle moving away from the ball, they were placed with pinpoint accuracy by Msomi and Greenway, and GK Jo Trip could do nothing to stop the move. At half time, the stage was set for a thriller, with Wasps leading 27-26.

Greenway shifted Reid to GK at the start of the third period, and brought Australian Sam May on to GD. May’s more physical style of play initially unsettled Walker, forcing her into error, and with Flanagan taking an impressive interception in midcourt the gap edged out to four goals. But Loughborough refused to be dismissed, and with Proscovia and Walker combining to great effect, the gap closed to one – however, that was as close as it got. Both sides tried to take advantage, but were then pegged back, with some thrilling passages of play bringing the best out of both teams.

Wasps were forced to work overtime to create shooting opportunities, with the ball moving backwards and forwards across the attacking third at lightning-quick speed. The quarter ended with a thrilling move from Loughborough, with Proscovia finding a flying Walker with a bullet-like pass as the Ugandan international fell out of court as her Jamaican team mate entered the circle. Walker converted the shot, to leave the scores 41-40 in Wasps favour at three quarter time.

If you are going to win championships, you need to show grit and determination, and it was Wasps who came out of the blocks firing at the start of the final period. May intercepted the first Lightning attacking move, and soon the gap between the two sides had opened to three goals.

For Loughborough, Natalie Panagarry and Hannah Joseph found themselves unable to move freely in the midcourt, shut out by some intense defensive work from Msomi and Flanagan. The Lightning attacking line stalled, frequently looking back to the transverse line to reset, and Wasps sniffed an opportunity. Reid picked up a crucial interception, which Dunn duly converted, and the tension grew for Loughborough once more. A three goal run brought Lightning to within two goals, with just over two minutes on the clock, but this was as close as Wasps were prepared to allow their opposition. Reid took a flying interception to put the game out of reach, and with two quick Dunn goals in the last minute of the game, Wasps took their inaugural Netball Superleague title.

Player of the match Bongiwe Msomi was full of praise for her side, “This was for everyone – we had nothing to lose on court today, and the win is down to a real team effort. We have been working so hard as a team, and to take the win is great. I’m looking forward to winning so much more with this great bunch of people.”

Netball can sometimes be a very cruel sport. Loughborough were exemplary throughout the league season, barring one loss – to the Wasps – and to lose a title at the very final hurdle is a hard outcome to bear. But nothing should take away from a clinical Wasps performance, topped by some great shooting from veteran Rachel Dunn and Natalie Haythornthwaite, who was herself a beaten finalist in 2016 with Manchester Thunder. Sometimes you just have to wait and the victory will come.

 

Wasps 55 def Loughborough Lightning 51
Player of the Match: Bongiwe Msomi (Wasps)

 

Wasps
Dunn 43/47 91%
Haythornthwaite 12/13 93%
55/60 92%

Loughborough Lightning
Proscovia 40/43 93%
Walker 11/16 69%
51/59 86%

Umpires: Gary Burgess and Louise Travis

 

Twitter: @FluffyRona
Cover image: twitter.com/Wasps_Netball