Celtic Dragons 57 Loughborough Lightning 70

Celtic Dragons’ best hopes of a home victory so far in 2019 went up in flames by the third quarter as Loughborough Lightning proved the more accurate side in Round 9 of the Superleague. After home games against Mavericks, Wasps and Thunder, there was a sense of optimism that the fixture would be Dragons’ opportunity to showcase some of their stunning away form to the Sport Wales faithful. However, this sense of hope quickly evaporated as Lightning turned over Dragons first centre pass and went on to build a lead of seven, courtesy of their towering shooting partnership. Try as they might, the Dragons defence was called for contact several times in the quarter and as a result there was little respite from the Lightning drive.

Early in the second period, Stacian Facey took a crashing fall but showed no signs of damage as she bounced back to her feet and was soon into Lightning for a much needed turnover. Dragons seemed to be at their best when playing across the fringes of the court – making their agility count against the more rangey Loughborough players. Kalifa McCollin showed good movement around the circle edge and as a result Dragons had some greater feeding options to play with. At half time, Dragons were still very much in with a shout, but they needed to take a bite out of the score in the coming half.

Rather than making the assertive start required, Dragons were caught off-guard as the whistle went and it was Chelsea Lewis who was able to steady the ship with a trademark hold and facile goal. However, passing accuracy just wasn’t there when it was needed and despite the urgings of captain Nia Jones, Dragons could not contain the visiting side. Interceptions were being won, but there was seldom an exit for the home team.

Head coach Tania Hoffman opted to use some of the bench in the final fifteen. Eleanor Roberts came on for Chelsea Lewis and showed some excellent strength and poise to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Lightning likewise emptied the bench and the new shooting partnership had Stacian to contend with – the Jamaican defender being relentless as the minutes went by. Winning the final quarter by a solitary goal will be little consolation for the Dragons who will be very disappointed not have pressed on for successive wins. Loughborough meanwhile make it four from four as they reverse their early season mediocrity in style.

Speaking after the game, Hoffman said: “I’m really disappointed with today’s result and I have to say I’m the most disappointed I’ve been all season.

“We didn’t start well. I thought that after our great start against Surrey Storm last week that we would carry that into this week, but we didn’t.

“We had quite a lot of turnover ball but against a side like Loughborough you can’t then just turn it over the other way.”

Celtic Dragons now enter the second half of the season and face an away trip to Team Bath on Saturday 16 March. Then, they will host London Pulse on Monday 25 March. That game will be live on Sky Sports and there are fewer than 50 tickets remaining for the game!

Quarter Scores: 12-19 (12-19); 15-16 (27-35); 13-19 (40-54); 17-16 (57-70)

Celtic Dragons: C Lewis, K McCollin, B Dyke, S Drane, N Jones, D Bolakoro, S Facey. Replacements: L Howells, L Herdman, K Jones, A Tyrrell and E Roberts.

Loughborough Lightning: M Cholhok, E Clark, H Joseph, J Shaw, N Panagarry, V Oyesola and T Keenan Replacements: A Clinton, L Parize, C Tarnowski, E Hollingworth and A Roddy.