After winning the 2017 Vitality Netball Superleague title many people wondered if Wasps could sustain their dominance of the competition. On the evidence of their first match, the Coventry-based side has no intention of relinquishing its crown, after a dominant win over Surrey Storm.

Starting line ups
Wasps Storm
GS Fisher GS Burger
GA Dunn GA Harris
WA Haythornthwaite WA Lees
C Clarke C Parsons
WD Flanagan WD Holland
GD Reid GD Forbes-Wattley
GK May GK Trip

Changes:
Wasps – Q3: GA Haythornthwaite, WA Candappa, WD May, GD Williams, GK Reid, Q4: GS Dunn, WA Greenway
Storm – Q2: GS Harris, GA Dixon, Q3: GD Trip, GK Kowalewska, Q4: WA Gulvin, GD Forbes Wattley, GK Trip

 

In all areas of the court, Wasps were simply too good for their young visitors, with World Youth Cup star George Fisher putting in a virtuoso display, shooting 40/45 89%, that kept the home side comfortably in the lead throughout.

The victory was built on an intense, smothering defensive pressure across the court, with Aussie Sam May the stand out performer, at both GK and WD, ably supported by Hannah Reid and Fran Williams. Time and again, Storm’s young front line was forced into lifting the attacking ball into the goal third, which was snapped up and converted by the fast-paced Wasps midcourt.

It went goal for goal in the early stages of the match before Wasps’ new signing Jade Clarke, together with Haythornthwaite and Flanagan, started to smother the Storm midcourt and force them to look laterally rather than into the goal third.

Image: Clive Jones

The home team quickly established a nine-goal lead by the end of the first period, which stretched to 35-19 by half time, despite some swift interplay and great vision between Harris, Parsons and Rhea Dixon. Dixon’s introduction at GA during the second period gave the Storm front line more energy and purpose, however, with May snapping up any loose ball within reach, the clouds were gathering for Storm’s changes of a big comeback.

With an eye towards the potential team changes which may be forced on Wasps as a result of Commonwealth Games selection later in the year, coach Tamsin Greenway shuffled her line up for the second half, introducing Sophia Candappa and Fran Williams to the side.

By now, Fisher had found her range and despite the close attentions of replacement GK Lorraine Kowalewska, used her swift footwork and clever rolls and drives to create simple shooting opportunities, which she converted.

On occasion, Storm were able to counter the Wasps pressure, but simple handling errors and some more impressive interceptions from May, Reid and Williams never allowed the visitors to settle. By the third quarter break the margin had stretched to 22 goals.

Wasps switched their line up once again for the final quarter, with the perennial Greenway returning once more to the front line and teaming up with Rachel Dunn in attack once again. The understanding between the two ensured Wasps stayed comfortably in front and despite the best efforts of the young Storm front line to keep the ball moving, Wasps were simply too strong.

There will be tougher games ahead for the champions, but their 68-43 win sounds an ominous warning for other teams with aspirations of the top honours in this year’s league. Wasps will not be giving up their title without a very stern fight.

Image: Clive Jones

Elsewhere in Round 1, Team Bath withstood a spirited challenge from Team Northumbria to emerge 52-39 winners, while Loughborough Lightning overcame a stern challenge from Sirens 55-44. Loughborough’s new defensive signing Shamera Sterling combined well with Vicky Oyesola in their first outing, to send last season’s league toppers to their first win of 2018.

In the closest game of the day, former champions Manchester Thunder overturned a ten-goal deficit at half time to defeat Severn Starts 48-47. Amy Clinton picked up player of the match honours for an impressive shooting display under intense pressure.

In the final match of the round, Mavericks, tipped by many to be a contender for a play off spot, travel to Cardiff to meet the Celtic Dragons.

 

Wasps 68 def Surrey Storm 43
(17-8, 35-19, 52-30, 68-43)

Player of the match: Sam May (Wasps)

 

Wasps
Fisher 40/45 89%
Dunn 25/29 86%
Haythornthwaite 3/5 60%
68/79 86%

Storm
Burger 6/8 75%
Harris 27/28 96%
Dixon 10/13 77%
43/49 88%

 

Images: Clive Jones – clivejonespr.com