Netball Superleague: Wasps beat Lightning to begin title defence - round-up

Jade Clarke of Wasps
England centre Jade Clarke of Wasps during the match against Loughborough Lightning

Wasps began the defence of their Superleague title by outclassing last year's losing finalists Loughborough Lightning at Arena Birmingham.

They stunned a youthful, new-look Lightning side in the second half and put down an early marker for any team wanting to take their crown.

It was the second game of Super 10 on Saturday, which saw all 10 Superleague sides play at the same venue.

More than 5,400 fans enjoyed 300 minutes of netball at the 2019 season launch event, with the World Cup taking place in Liverpool in July.

Manchester Thunder, who finished third in the 2018 campaign, beat Saracens Mavericks and Team Bath made sure Serena Guthrie's return to the side after a four-year absence was a winning one, brushing aside Celtic Dragons.

League debutants London Pulse edged a thriller against Severn Stars, while Strathclyde Sirens cruised to victory over Surrey Storm.

Lightning fail to take sting out of dominant Wasps

Just four goals separated Wasps and Lightning when they met in the Superleague final last July, but Lightning were outplayed in all departments in this season opener, suffering a heavy 72-42 loss.

Lightning lost three key players in the off-season, with Peace Proscovia, Beth Cobden and Shamera Sterling all moving to Super Netball clubs in Australia - and they were missed.

Wasps, who are aiming for their third title in a row, won three out of four quarters by 10 goals or more and their England centre Jade Clarke said her side "drew on experience to pick up on the same foot" from last season.

Lightning head coach Sara Bayman said: "It turned into a bit of a mess in the second half. We need to defend better as a team and turn ball over and that's something I know we have in our locker."

Thunder hold off Mavericks comeback

A string of early Mavericks errors were punished by a bullish Thunder, who shut the door on any opportunity for the renamed side to get back into the game in the first half.

A revitalised Mavericks asked questions of the Black and Yellows after the break, snipping an eight-goal lead to four. However, Thunder regrouped in the final quarter and held on for a 58-51 win.

Thunder captain Emma Dovey said it was a "scrappy game" after a long build-up to the season but one her side were "very happy" to win.

"We don't worry too much about other teams," the defender said of her side's chances of winning their first Superleague title since 2014. "We focus on what we're doing and that we're playing well and as long as we do, I know we'll be up there challenging at the end of the season."

Mavericks' Sasha Corbin said: "Thunder are a classy side, they've been playing together so long and they have gained an England international shooter in Ellie Cardwell. However, when it worked for us today, it worked extremely well, but we're very disappointed with the loss."

Iona Darroch of Severn Stars in action during the match between Severn Stars and London Pulse
Iona Darroch of Severn Stars in action during the match between Severn Stars and London Pulse

Superleague new girls Pulse out-shine Stars

London Pulse pulled off a tight 51-49 debut win over Severn Stars, in one of the stand-out performances of the day.

The score went goal-for-goal for the majority of the game, but Pulse held their nerve, producing the vital intercept in the final seconds to secure a deserved win.

Pulse's England captain Ama Agbeze, who missed the game through injury, said the match gave her "extra motivation" to get back on the court.

"My heart can't take it," she said. "It's less stressful when you're in the game as opposed to watching."

Birthday win for Guthrie

After a tight opening period, Bath opened up a healthy lead against Dragons, eventually winning 58-41

They controlled the second half and it was a dream return for Guthrie, who was also celebrating her 29th birthday.

Guthrie said: "Netball on my birthday, why not? It was nice to pull away and get a gap. We are nowhere near perfect but it's nice to get our first win."

Cat Tuivaiti of Strathclyde wins the ball during the match between Strathclyde Sirens and Surrey Storm
Cathrine Tuivaiti of Strathclyde wins the ball during the match between Strathclyde Sirens and Surrey Storm

Sirens sound season intent with Storm win

Led by the flair and skill of new international signing Cathrine Tuivaiti at shooter, Sirens showed their early intentions to push for a play-off place this season after just falling short last term, with a solid 56-38 win over Storm.

New Zealand's Tuivaiti said of her decision to move to the Superleague from her homeland: "It's extremely difficult. The way netball is seen and played in the UK (compared to New Zealand) is different but we're doing really well.

"We need to shake it up and impart our knowledge and experience and so far, so good."

Meanwhile, Storm player-coach Mikki Austin said last season's seventh finish "wasn't good enough" and her side "need to score more consistently".

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