Team Bath’s bid for a historic fifth Fiat Netball Superleague title ended with a 57-53 defeat to Surrey Storm in a pulsating play-off match at the University of Bath Sports Training Village tonight (Friday).
The contest lived up to the classic that everyone had hoped for between two closely matched teams who between them featured half of the England squad for July’s World Championships.
Team Bath went into the final quarter five goals up, but a battling display from the visitors saw them snatch the place in the next round of play-offs
Afterwards Team Bath head coach Jess Garland said: “We were the best team for three quarters, but we didn’t get enough turnover in the last quarter.
“We didn’t stick to our task defensively in the final quarter, and credit to Surrey, they shut Rosie (Allison) down in the last quarter. But I didn’t think 11-20 reflected our team performance in that quarter.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team,” she added. “They promised themselves they’d leave everything out there on the court and they definitely did that tonight.
“It’s been a challenging season, and it should be at this level. We’ve stuck to the Team Bath way of exposing people to playing at this level. We haven’t made the final this year, but if it means we have some talent coming through for the next couple of seasons, I can’t be too disappointed.”
The two teams could barely be separated in an opening quarter that saw a fantastic display of fast, flowing netball in which England team-mates Rachel Dunn and Eboni Beckford-Chambers fought out a Titanic battle. Beckford-Chambers and defensive partner Stacey Francis were in inspirational mood, making things tough going for former Team Bath players Dunn and Tamsin Greenway.
Team Bath briefly secured a two-goal advantage via Allison in the opening five minutes, but that was soon cancelled out by Storm.
The game seesawed around the odd goal until the last minute of the half when Allison struck again to give TeamBath a 12-10 lead. But Storm levelled the score and then edged into the lead before Allison’s goal in the dying moments to make it 13-13 at the end of the quarter.
Team Bath took an early initiative in the second quarter, fuelled by some outstanding interceptions by Serena Guthrie and some terrific passing by Mia Ritchie and Asha Tett.
The reigning champions opened up a six-goal lead but Dunn’s accuracy saw Surrey claw their way back to trail by 27-25 at the halfway mark.
Team Bath made the perfect start to the third quarter scoring three unanswered goals to take the score to 30-25 before Dunn scored the visitors first of the quarter three minutes in.
Guthrie and Tett were outstanding in midcourt, supplying plenty of ball to Cookey and Allison as Team Bath gradually cut loose and stretched their lead from five goals, to six, then seven, eight and eventually nine with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter.
But Dunn kept Storm in the game, hitting three goals without reply as Surrey cut the lead to 42-37 going into the final quarter.
Storm made the first and only positional change of the game taking Greenway out of the shooting circle to wing attack and pushing Gemma Consentino to goal attack.
Storm battled back, cutting the lead swiftly to 44-42 and then levelling up at 44-all with 10 minutes remaining in a quarter in which Team Bath’s England defender Eboni Beckford-Chambers appeared to frequently get the worst of the umpiring decisions in her battle with Dunn.
The two teams dug in and battled it out, with neither side able to carve out a decisive lead. With four minutes to go the scores were level at 51-51. Dunn struck twice for Storm, before Allison pulled a goal back.
With the game on a knife-edge, Dunn scored twice more to take the Storm lead to 55-52 going into the final minute. There was still time for Dunn to net again and for a reply from Allison – who scored eight from eight in the final quarter. But when Dunn scored again to take it to 57-53, Storm knew all they then had to do was retain possession for the dying seconds to progress to the next round of the play-offs at Team Bath’s expense.
You can watch it ‘as live’ on Sky Sports 4 at 6pm on Wednesday 1 June.
Quarter scores (Team Bath first): Q1:13-13, Q2: 14-12 (27-25), Q3: 15-12 (42-37), Q4 11- 20 (53-57).
GS Rosie Allison, GA Pamela Cookey, WA Asha Tett, C Mia Ritchie, WD Serena Guthrie, GD Stacey Francis, GK: Eboni Beckford-Chambers
Bench: Kadeen Corbin, Katy Rose, Gemma Fletcher, Sam Perry, Scarlett Williams.
GS Rachel Dunn, GA Tamsin Greenway, WA Gemma Consentino, C Becky Trippick, WD Natalie Seaton, GD Katy Holland, GK Hannah Reid.
Q4 changes: Consentino to GA, Greenway to WA.
Bench: Steph Bello, Rhianne McHale, Adele Modeste, Fran Desmond, Lucy Adams.
Rosie Allison – 31 from 37 (84 per cent)
Pamela Cookey – 22 from 26 (85 per cent)
Rachel Dunn – 52 from 61 (85 per cent)
Tamsin Greenway – 3 from 9 (33 per cent)
Gemma Consentino – 2 from 4 (50 per cent)
For further information members of the media can contact the TeamBath press office at Matchtight Ltd on 07765 071683.