During the VNSL Big Easter Weekend, Celtic Dragons demonstrated all of the qualities that have seen them improve markedly this season: grit, determination and patience. The task ahead of them was a daunting one: two away games against established top 4 sides with a mere 18 hours to recover and reload between them. Despite this massive undertaking, Dragons played some of their best netball of the campaign so far and, with a bit more luck, would have taken one win out of the weekend. In the event, Saturday’s fixture against Saracens Mavericks ended in disappointment, with Sunday’s game against league-leaders Wasps always seeming a bridge too far.
Dragons started positively against Mavericks in their first game. Captain Nia Jones getting a tip in early and really making an impression on the game with clever, focused marking of the Mavs attack. Dragons were unlucky to train by 5 at the quarter as Mavericks nailed a very late goal.
Centre pass to goal was a real issue for Dragons in the second quarter and as a result, Mavs were able to stretch to a 9-goal lead at one point. However, Nia and Stacian Facey were able to get the Dragons ammunition and damage was limited to a one-goal loss in the quarter.
Stacian was at the forefront of the Dragons resurgence in the third quarter. She preyed on every Mavs feed as the players in purple took little care of the ball. Kalifa McCollin was shooting for fun as Dragons got within one. Momentum was with Dragons as they went into the final break.
It was two goals against centre pass possession as the fourth quarter started, showing just how tense the game was. However, it was the Welsh franchise that looked the better, until some calls started to go against them. The crowd were left in dismay as the team were pinged for held ball when obstruction might have been another interpretation. Dragons remained patient in attack with Lucy Herdman solid in front of the post, but time had ran out and Mavericks were able to maintain their control of the game for a 55-50 win.
The next day, Dragons were faced with the small task of a 2pm centre pass against hosts and league-leaders Wasps. There were some tired bodies on court and it took some time to get going, but Dragons kept it tight and only trailed by 5 at the break.
Stacian once again found plenty of work,but it seemed that every rebound was going in favour of the home team. This gave Dragons little means of edging their way back into the game as Wasps found options all over court to power their mercilessly accurate attack.
By the middle of the third quarter, Wasps were able to pull away and put the game out of contention. Nevertheless, Dragons remained professional and Chelsea Lewis was able to dart around the circle to help the feeders out. Abby Tyrrell came on for Dee Bolakoro to hassle the Wasps attack but the game was gone and Wasps were able to secure some daylight between themselves and title rivals Manchester Thunder in the table.
Celtic Dragons now get ready to face Surrey Storm on Saturday 27 April. This will be Dragons final home game of the 2019 season with Fast5 qualification up for grabs as well as Storm’s current 7th spot in the league.
Tickets are on sale via: celticdragonsnetball.ticketline.co.uk
Celtic Dragons 50 Saracens Mavericks 55
10-15 (10-15); 15-16 (25-31); 14-11 (39-42); 11-13 (50-55)
Wasps 64 Celtic Dragons 48
16-12 (16-12); 17-10 (33-22); 14-11; (47-33); 17-15 (64-48)