A second-quarter slump ended Team Bath Netball’s hopes of reaching the 2018 Vitality Superleague Grand Final as Wasps booked their place at the showpiece occasion with a 54-39 victory on Saturday.
The Sitec-sponsored Blue and Gold made a flying start to the semi-final at the University of Worcester Arena as they raced into a 4-0 lead and had chances to add to their advantage.
However, defending champions Wasps fought back strongly and were able to forge a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter before really cranking up the pressure during a second period that got away from Team Bath.
They were forced into a series of errors and found themselves 29-13 down at half-time, with the match effectively over as a contest.
Team Bath refused to let their heads drop, though, and won the second half 26-25 to provide a battling finish to their season but Wasps, who topped the Superleague table, were worthy winners and now have a chance to win the title for a second successive season.
Anna Stembridge, Team Bath Netball Superleague Head Coach, said: “We started brilliantly but you would expect a class team like Wasps to respond and we need to learn how to manage that pressure when a team comes back at us.
“The players really kept fighting and the second half demonstrated what we are capable of but you can’t get away from the fact there were missed opportunities in that second quarter. For all of us there are lessons to be learnt from the game but we have a real opportunity to build on these experiences.”
Captain Eboni Beckford-Chambers added: “It was a tough game out there tonight. I’m really proud of the girls in winning the second half but we can’t let a margin get out to as big as it did in the second quarter. Each of the girls put their best foot forward but we were beaten by the better team.”
Team Bath looked in determined mood as they took to the court and they made the brighter start to the game, Layla Guscoth producing two superb interceptions as the Blue and Gold opened up an early 4-0 lead.
They had a couple of chances to make the gap bigger but were unable to convert them and Wasps took full advantage to draw level midway through the quarter before edging ahead for the first time with five minutes remaining.
Wasps were now firmly on the front foot and, with a couple of errors creeping into Team Bath’s play, went on to take a 12-7 lead into the second quarter.
Four unanswered Rachel Dunn goals saw Wasps continue to pull away from a misfiring Team Bath and they had extended their advantage to 18-8 when the Blue and Gold made a change, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis coming on at goal-attack and Kadeen Corbin moving to goal-shooter.
However, the game was running away from Team Bath and another burst of six Dunn goals gave Wasps a commanding 25-9 lead with five minutes of the quarter remaining.
Jess Shaw and Tash Pavelin came on at centre and wing-defence respectively as Team Bath sought to get a foothold in the match but they had only been on court for seconds when play was halted by the fire alarms.
The unexpected break gave Team Bath a chance to regroup and they scored three goals in quick succession but Wasps responded in kind to finish the first half with a 29-13 lead.
Team Bath rang the changes again for the third quarter with Jess Shaw replacing sister Rachel at wing-attack and Ritchie and Lewis returning to the fray, the latter scoring three early goals as the Blue and Gold again started the half brightly.
The travelling fans provided great support as Team Bath worked tirelessly and produced some excellent moments right across the court during a much more evenly-matched third quarter that was reflected in a scoreline of 12-12 for the 15 minutes.
The Blue and Gold stuck with the same seven for the final quarter and continued to keep battling, with Jess Shaw and Ritchie providing some brilliant feeds for Lewis and Corbin as the teams went goal for goal.
Team Bath went on to win the quarter 14-13, meaning they also edged the second half by a goal, but the damage had been done and Wasps will now have chance to defend their title in next week’s Grand Final.
Team Bath Netball are sponsored by Sitec and supported by partners Mogers Drewett, Investigo and Netball South West. Centurion Chartered Financial Planners are supporting the team’s performance analysis and people development capabilities, Viper 10 are their Sportswear Supplier and Skins provide the team with compression wear.
Team Bath Netball starting 7: GS Chelsea Lewis, GA Kadeen Corbin, WA Rachel Shaw, C Mia Ritchie, WD Imogen Allison, GD Layla Guscoth, GK Eboni Beckford-Chambers. Replacements: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Tash Pavelin, Paige Reed, Abi Robson, Zanele Vimbela.
Changes: Q2: Drakeford-Lewis – bench to GA; Corbin – GA to GS; Lewis – GS to bench; J Shaw – bench to C; Pavelin – bench to WD; Ritchie – C to bench; Allison – WD to bench. Q3: Lewis – bench to GS; Corbin – GS to GA; Drakeford-Lewis – GA to bench; Ritchie – bench to C; J Shaw – C to WA; R Shaw – WA to bench; Allison – bench to WD; Pavelin – WD to bench.
Wasps starting 7: GS Rachel Dunn, GA Natalie Haythornthwaite, WA Tamsin Greenway, C Sophie Candappa, WD Jade Clarke, GD Hannah Knights, GK Sam May. Replacements: George Fisher, Amy Flanagan, Lucy Harris, Josie Huckle, Fran Williams.
Changes: Q3: Flanagan – bench to WD; Clarke – WD to C; Candappa – C to WA; Greenway – WA to bench; Knights – GD to GK; May – GK to GD. Q4: Fisher – bench to GS; Dunn – GS to bench; Huckle – bench to GK; Knights – GK to bench.
Quarter-scores (Team Bath score first): Q1 7-12. Q2 13-29 (6-17). Q3 25-41 (12-12). Q4 39-54 (14-13).