SEVERN Stars put on a ruthless first half display after a long journey to Glasgow and silenced Strathclyde Sirens with an emphatic 56-37 win.
Sirens, who recruited former New Zealand international Cat Tuivaiti and Australian Under 21 international Gia Abernathy for the new season, entered this game coming off a morale-boosting win in London the week before.
Stars head coach Sam Bird started with the same starting line-up that lost out to Surrey Storm in the previous round and her faith was immediately rewarded. The away side came shooting out of the blocks under the lights of the Emirates Arena.
Stars’ defensive trio of Sam Cook, Jodi-Ann Ward and Ella Powell-Davies heaped the pressure on the Scottish attack and repeatedly came out with the ball.
In previous rounds, Stars have been wasteful in possession, but they looked assured, confident and ruthless and repeatedly converted their turnovers to goal. They finished the first quarter with an 18-12 lead.
The second quarter saw Sirens make a change to their defence in an attempt to stem the flow, but they could do nothing to stop the relentless scoring of Stars’ Welsh international Georgia Rowe.
Rowe has become a key player to Stars this season and Sirens had no answers to the 6ft 5in goal shooter, who converted 49 goals out of 51 attempts. Despite the encouragement of the Scottish crowd, it was Stars who held a comfortable 36-20 lead at the break.
The second half saw the introduction of Cara Lea Moseley at wing attack, while Iona Darroch moved into the centre position. Moseley made an impact, helping Stars to continue to pressure Sirens, showing no mercy for the Scottish side.
At the other end, goal keeper Sam Cook did well against the experience of Tuivaiti.
Although the Kiwi’s shooting record was 100 per cent on the night, Cook linked superbly with young Jamaican defender Ward to limit the experienced goal shooter to just 20 attempts on goal and at the end of the third quarter the score stood at 48-29.
At the start of the final quarter, both sides made changes to their line-up. For Sirens, they perhaps realised the game was now out of reach, but for Bird, it was a chance to give her youthful bench some valuable experience and game time.
For the first time this season, all 12 Stars players took to the court.
It was a particularly special night for 17-year-old Beth Gabriel as she made her Superleague debut, coming on to see out the final few minutes of an impressive victory.
Bird was full of praise for her team: “I’m really pleased to get such a strong win.
“Our first half was particularly outstanding. We have talked after the last few games about trusting our game plan and sticking to structures and I saw that from every single one of them.
“We punished Sirens when we turned the ball over and significantly cut down our error rate compared to previous games and that is good to see. It’s great to get the points and now we have to take this forward into our next game.”
Stars return home to the University of Worcester Arena this evening (Monday) to face high-flying Saracens Mavericks.