VNSL 2019 – Round 1: Celtic Dragons v Team Bath – Arena Birmingham

Celtic Dragons started the season with a loss to a strong Team Bath side in their opening fixture of the 2019 season at the Super 10 extravaganza in Birmingham, but there were a wealth of positives to take from an action packed start to the new year.

Both sides were neck and neck for the majority of the first quarter. Bath did manage to intercept some ball early on, but some great vision from captain Nia Jones, playing up at centre saw Dragons frustrate the Somerset side’s early attacks. Nevertheless, Bath were the first to really apply some offensive pressure in the game and built an early lead as Dragons relied too heavily on long range passes. Some cool composure from Kalifa McCollin to nail a final second goal meant that the game was still well within the Dragons grasp.

The second quarter was something of a quarter of two halves! Celtic Dragons stormed into the period, with Kalifa scoring for fun as Bath’s lead was narrowed to a mere three goals. Dragons’ opening salvo must have taken its toll as midway through the quarter the players started to drop off and let Bath back into the game. Some sloppy final passes into the circle allowed the Blue and Yellows to fire the ball up court and send shockwaves through the Dragons defence. Dragons did their best to move the ball around but the intervention of the officials did not help their cause and the quarter ended in disappointment as Dragons trailed by 13.

With plenty to do, head coach Tania Hoffman made some changes for the second half. Ellie Nawele came on at WA and England U21 defender Abby Tyrrell took up position at GD with Nia Jones and Kyra Jones both moving to their more familiar positions. There was an immediate benefit as Kyra found opportunities to poach Bath’s possession. Meanwhile, Chelsea and Kalifa continued to team-up well as a rare miss for McCollin was scooped up by her team mate and converted. Dragons had dug deep and kept Team Bath to three in a quarter where the match could have completely gone away from the Welsh side.

The final quarter was also cause for optimism. The Dragons defence grew in confidence as Stacian Facey made a powerful impression on Bath and Lucy Herdman came on at GS for the final few minutes of the game. Herdman was steadfast in the circle and took her chances with a cool head.

Reacting to the loss, Nia Jones said: “There were some moments of brilliance from us and really showed what we’ve been working on in pre-season with our exciting new additions,”

“Team Bath are clinical. We’re not happy it’s a loss and we would have loved to build momentum for the start of the season.

“We are just going to have to be better next week.”

Celtic Dragons now prepare for another roadtrip as they travel to face new franchise London Pulse on Saturday 12 January. Centre pass at 7.00pm and updates will be available via our official Twitter feed.

Celtic Dragons: C Lewis, K McCollin, K Jones, N Jones (C), L Howells, D Bolakoro and S Facey. Replacements: L Herdman, L Hitchings, E Nawele, E Roberts and A Tyrrell.

Team Bath: K Commane, S Drakeford-Lewis, R Shaw, S Guthrie, I Allison, E Usoro Brown and S Artman. Replacements: C Curtis, B Friday, M Ritchie, L Rudland and L Thomas.

Quarter Scores: 12-19 (12-19); 6-12 (18-31); 11-14 (29-45); 12-13 (41-58).