SEVERN Stars came from behind at half-time to topple Vitality Netball Superleague newcomers London Pulse in a thrilling 60-51 away win, writes Spencer Marshall.
After a promising performance in last week’s defeat to Wasps, Stars were hoping for a better outcome at the Copper Box Arena than the first time they faced Pulse on the opening day of the season.
And Stars did not disappoint, with a second half performance that earned the praise of head coach Sam Bird.
“We needed to come and win today. I wasn’t happy with our first half performance; we got a lead of 7-2 and threw it away with silly errors but the way we responded in the second half was fantastic,” she said.
Stars began the game emphatically, intercepting from the first pass of the match and scoring the opening three points, the third an impressive effort from captain Maryka Holtzhausen.
However, the home side found themselves 13-12 in front at the first interval following a string of goals from Jamaican goal shooter Shantal Slater.
In the second quarter Pulse grew into the fixture, with Slater again proving a useful outlet for their attack. Meanwhile Stars struggled to find consistency in front of the net, despite creating a few scoring opportunities. Pulse began to move ahead, with Chiara Semple turning provider for Slater as she continued to use her height in the circle.
Just before half-time Stars’ Iona Darroch showed signs of the fightback that was to come with a well-timed interception that briefly halted Pulse’s momentum, but the away side found themselves behind 28-25 at the interval.
The opening exchanges of the third quarter were even, with Stars’ centre Lucy Harris, who had worked tirelessly all afternoon, swapped with wing attack Darroch in the only change to the Stars line-up.
However, the change proved pivotal with Darroch, at centre, feeding goal shooter Georgia Rowe, who levelled the scores at 30-30.
Stars’ goal keeper Sam Cook also grew into the game during the third quarter, giving Pulse’s main attacking option Slater a tough time in taking the ball in the circle, nullifying her impact.
At the other end Pulse’s defence struggled to keep up with the movement of Rowe and Holtzhausen. With seven minutes to go in the quarter it was Rowe again who put Stars ahead for the first time since the opening exchanges, 32-33.
The away team marked the quarter with a score out of nowhere as Holtzhausen spectacularly saved the ball from going out of play and directed it into the path of Rowe, who duly converted to finish the quarter with Stars leading 38-45.
In the final period of the game both sides kept the scoreboard ticking over well, with Stars moving the ball with more purpose and speed than in the previous three as they strung a number of scores together to pull away.
Bird said: “This should give us lots of confidence. Next up is Loughborough who are a good side performing well, but I believe if we perform well for longer phases of play we can beat anyone in the league.”
Stars take on Loughborough Lightning at the University of Worcester Arena on Saturday (6pm).