There were emotional scenes in the Sport Wales National Centre following the full-time whistle in Round 17 of the Vitality Netball Superleague. Not only did Celtic Dragons secure a 58-51 victory over Surrey Storm to go 7th in the league, but Kyra Jones, the indefatigable Wales and Dragons centre, had just played her final game in the green dress.
Storm came into Round 7 with one victory more than Dragons, but only a slender one-goal advantage of the home side. The return fixture earlier in the season saw Dragons prevail in a pulsating final quarter by just 2 goals, having led by as many as 9 during the first quarter. Those in attendance were always guaranteed of a close encounter and so it proved.
Dragons started well, Kalifa McCollin nailing the first goal and Dee Bolakoro getting an early tip in from Storm’s centre pass. Captain for her final home game, Kyra Jones was composed throughout and when Dragons were able to turn the ball over, she put herself in the right place at the right time to fire a route-one feed up to Chelsea Lewis. Early changes for the visitors did not bode particularly well and it was taking Surrey a long time to move the ball from centre pass to goal.
The second quarter belonged to the defence as Nia Jones made a close-up interception and Stacian Facey tracked well around the circle to pick off some of Storm’s looser feeds. As a result, Dragons had plenty of ammunition to fire up court and led by eight at one point. However, a couple of mis-fired feeds gave the visitors an out as half time approached and they made no mistakes as the game remained close.
The ball was turned over both ways early into the third quarter. However, once again, Stacian was immovable in defence and forced the opposition feed out for a backline pass. Dragons were not quite able to run away with the game but they looked in control at all points and played with the patience that head coach Tania Hoffman has been emphasising all season. Ahead by six at the quarter-time whistle, fans who remembered the away trip to Surrey – and similarly the home game against Severn Stars – knew that the game wasn’t done yet.
Dragons kept their discipline well and were careful not to slip into any unforced errors as Storm looked to pilther a victory. Once again, Dee Bolakoro was in flying form and when Lucy Howells came on for Nia Jones at wing-defence she made an immediate intercept as Storm’s hopes quickly faded.
Celtic Dragons victory not only sees them go seventh in the league, but it also means that they have secured qualification for the British Fast5 All Stars tournament for the very first time. Taking place in London on 12 October further information about the event can be found here: http://www.fast5allstars.com/
Quarter scores: 17-14 (17-14); 15-14 (32-28); 14-12 (46-40); 12-11 (58-51)
Player of the Match: Stacian Facey
Celtic Dragons: GS C Lewis, GA K McCollin, WA S Drane, C K Jones (Capt), WD N Jones, GD D Bolakoro & GK S Facey. Replacements: B Dyke, L Howells, L Herman, E Nawele & A Tyrrell.
Surrey Storm: GS S Burger, GA Y Hodge-England, WA Y Parsons, C M Austin, WD S vd Merwe, GD Katy Hughes & GK L Kowalewska. Replacements: R Dixon, L Goss, E Gulvin, L Morton & A Priest.