Netball Superleague 2019: Wasps beat Dragons seal play-off spot

By Denise EvansBBC Sport
Wasps v Dragons
Wasps (in yellow) earned their second victory in two days

Wasps were the first club to confirm a Netball Superleague play-off spot after beating Celtic Dragons as the Big Easter Weekend came to a conclusion.

Mel Mansfield's side defeated the Dragons 64-48 in Coventry to go three points clear with two games left.

Saracens beat top-four rivals Team Bath 51-45 to stay in the play-off race.

In Glasgow, Loughborough Lightning completed the double over second-placed Manchester Thunder by winning a thriller 60-57.

Wasps lead the way

Leaders Wasps go three points clear in the table after a routine win over Celtic Dragons, with two games remaining in the season.

Wasps weathered early pressure from Celtic Dragons to complete a routine win, which followed Saturday's thrashing of Surrey Storm.

"It was a good battle out there," Wasps head coach Mansfield said. "We've come out of two tough games without any injuries too."

Wasps' win was the first of three matches played in Coventry on Sunday; later on, fifth-placed Saracens Mavericks move to within three points of a top-four play-off spot.

Opponents Team Bath were careless in possession at key moments and a composed Mavericks punished them with classy attacking play.

In the other match in Coventry, Severn Stars overhauled Surrey Storm in the second half to win 51-46.

The victory lifted them above their opponents in the table to sixth.

Thunder and Lightning make for classic

Loughborough Lightening
Loughborough 60-57 win over Manchester increased their chances of making the play-offs

Loughborough Lightning edged a classic against Manchester Thunder in the second of Sunday's two matches in Glasgow.

The sides traded blows throughout the game, with a high defence line and pin-point shooting accuracy, but it was Lightning who edged ahead in the final quarter and held their nerve to see out the win.

Lightning did a sterling job in restricting the influence of Thunder's wing attack Liana Leota, and it affected the side's attacking fluidity.

Sara Bayman, Lightning's head coach, said: "We were diligent with our homework and for them to go out over 60 minutes and get the win is huge."

"I'm impressed with the level of composure today, and to hold a lead for 15 minutes against this Thunder side.

"Top four is still within our control and that's what we wanted."

Thunder coach Karen Greig says her side "have a lot of work to do and put the wrongs right in training" before facing Team Bath next week.

In Glasgow's opening match, Strathclyde Sirens' partisan crowd were in full voice for the closing minutes of their clash with London Pulse, as they held on to take only their third win of the season.

Sirens had led by 10 goals at half time, Pulse and England captain Ama Agbeze spearhead her side's charge back into contention, but it wasn't quite enough as they lost by three.

The top two teams at the end of the regular season will enjoy a home semi-final, with first playing fourth and second facing third for a spot in the Grand Final on 18 May.

Big Easter Weekend: Two venues, two days, 10 squads, 10 games, quizzes, curfews & team talks

London Pulse, Wasps, Bath, Manchester Thunder
Clockwise, from top left: London Pulse players have a go at Aussie rules football; Wasps players play Frisbee in the sunshine; Manchester Thunder do performance analysis; Bath's Serena Guthrie gets ready

It takes meticulous planning to prepare a team for two games in two days.

Squad rotation, team morale, performance analysis, physio treatments, warm downs and diet are all vital in a managing the demands of elite sport and keeping players fit.

Superleague coaches will usually stick to a strict schedule and insist players share meals and downtime together.

Players discuss any injury concerns with the medical staff after dinner on Saturday; they may have a sports massage or other specialist treatments and then it is lights out by 23:00 BST sharp.

Sunday morning is used to debrief Saturday's match in the hotel and to watch video of the next opponents to gauge tactical insight.

Most sides follow this model, throwing in a spot of Easter-themed fun with Team Bath playing games, Wasps competing in a quiz and Pulse players taking part in an Australian rules football session.

Preparation for a game begins two hours before the start, with team talks and warm-ups. Then four quarters of intense action follows as two teams battle it out for three points.

What is the Superleague Big Easter Weekend?

Each of the 10 Superleague teams played twice across two venues - once on Saturday (round 15) and for another fixture on Sunday (round 16).

Four teams competed at Emirates Arena in Glasgow - Strathclyde, Manchester, London and Loughborough.

Six sides took to the court at Coventry's Ricoh Arena, including Wasps - who play their home games at the venue - Celtic Dragons, Team Bath, Saracens Mavericks, Severn Stars and Surrey Storm.


Sunday, 21 April


Strathclyde Sirens 47-44 London Pulse

Loughborough Lightning 60-57 Manchester Thunder


Wasps 76-42 Surrey Storm

Severn Stars 42-53 Team Bath

Saracens Mavericks 55-50 Celtic Dragons

Saturday, 20 April


Strathclyde Sirens 44-59 Loughborough Lightning

London Pulse 42- 71 Manchester Thunder


Wasps 76-42 Surrey Storm

Severn Stars 42-53 Team Bath

Saracens Mavericks 55-50 Celtic Dragons

Superleague table 2019
Manchester Thunder1612436
Team Bath1611533
Loughborough Lightning1611533
Saracens Mavericks1610630
*Severn Stars167918
Surrey Storm1661018
Celtic Dragons1651115
Strathclyde Sirens163139
London Pulse162146
*Severn Stars deducted three points