Despite a startling third quarter rally, Celtic Dragons were unable to seal a final win of the 2019 campaign away at semi-finalists Loughborough Lightning.
Starting at centre in her final Celtic Dragons appearance, Kyra Jones helped the visitors to make a bright start as she fired an inch perfect to Suzy Drane who fed Chelsea Lewis for Dragons first goal. This was immediately followed by a facile defensive turnover as Dragons went 3-nil up within seconds of the match starting. Loughborough were not scoreless for long and by ten minutes their powerful shooting partnership had amassed 15. All of Stacian Facey’s excellent work in defence was not enough to prevent a six goal lead for the hosts at the break.
There were interceptions for both Nia Jones and Dee Bolakoro in the second quarter as Dragons went about their work. Bethan Dyke came on for Suzy Drane as both sides tidied up their play and looked to press on. However, there was little to split both teams in the quarter and so Dragons were still left with that six goal target at half-time.
With a semi-final spot in prospect, perhaps nerves had started to set in for Lightning as they came out after the interval to make a host of uncharacteristic errors. Dragons were able to capitalise after a series of dropped passes, contact and offside calls. The players in green were within one goal of drawing level when Loughborough regained their composure and Dragons reverted to throwing unnecessary 50:50 passes up court. There was bitter disappointment on the bench as Dragons went on to lose the quarter by one.
Celtic Dragons knew that a victory looked remote at this point, but there was also the need to protect their goals difference as 7th place was a straight shoot-out between themselves and Surrey Storm on that basis. Lightning were able to make changes as they went for the throat but Dragons remained steadfast. Chelsea Lewis was able to score a flurry of unanswered goals in the final two minutes of the game to prevent a blow-out and help the squad make sure of its best placed finish for many years.
Quarter scores: 20-14 (20-14); 14-14 (34-28); 17-16 (51-44); 16-12 (67-56).
Celtic Dragons: C Lewis, K McCollin, S Drane, K Jones, N Jones (Capt), D Bolakoro & S Facey. Replacements: E Nawele, L Howells, B Dyke, L Herdman & A Tyrrell.
Loughborough Lightning: M Cholhok, E Clark, H Joseph, J Shaw, N Panagarry (Capt), V Oyesola & T Keenan. Replacements: A Clinton, Z Everitt, R Harris, L Parize & A Roddy.