Match report courtesy of Team Bath Netball
Team Bath were playing their first game since last March, while Celtic Dragons were lining up for their second fixture in less than 24 hours after appearing in the opening match of the 2021 season: a 65-35 defeat to Superleague newcomers Leeds Rhinos.
Team Bath quickly found their feet, with Jess Shaw – starting at WA on her return to Bath after two years away – forging a slick attacking partnership with Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis as they eased into a 10-4 lead.
Dragons dug in well and closed the gap to 13-9 at the end of the quarter but they had no answer as Team Bath moved up a gear in the second period.
Usoro-Brown came on at GK and forged a dominant defensive partnership with Tash Pavelin, who produced several interceptions early in the quarter as Team Bath raced into a 22-11 lead.
The outstanding Imogen Allison and fellow England star Serena Guthrie completely bossed the mid-court area, snuffing out Dragons attacks and linking fluidly with their own front three, and not even the lights briefly going out on court at the central venue in Wakefield could stop Team Bath from taking the second quarter 18-6.
With a 31-15 lead under their belts, Team Bath were able to make more changes in the third quarter as Chartie Curtis came on for her first Superleague appearance since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury two years ago.
Abi Robson and Betsy Creak also entered the fray but, despite the changes, there was no let-up in Team Bath’s intensity and all the replacements made impressive contributions as they stretched their lead
Creak – who was named as Vitality Player of the Match – showed her versatility by producing an equally eye-catching performance after moving to goal attack for the final quarter as Borger, Summer Artman and Guthrie all returned to the court. Rachel Shaw, who had an ankle injury during pre-season, also came on for the final 12 minutes in place of sister Jess.
Dragons – who featured former Team Bath Superleague players Laura Rudland and Leila Thomas in their line-up – continued to battle away during a closer final quarter but Bath won it 12-9 to complete their victory.