A closely fought local derby opened our 2021 campaign on Saturday with Surrey Storm taking the win 42-40. Despite a fierce fight from Pulse – who were ahead at several times throughout the match – and numerous youngsters making a big impact coming off the bench, it was not to be. Plenty for our side to work on as we look ahead to Manchester Thunder next weekend.
The opening quarter began with a flurry of goals from Surrey Storm, who capitalised on our slow start to gain an early lead. Rademan opened our account and in doing so scored her first ever goal in Vitality Netball Superleague. Defensive pressure from Storm allowed them to extend their lead to 7-1 as our attack end struggled to find the connections we are so used to seeing.
Storm’s Emma Magee was sidelined due to an injury just 5 minutes into the game, and youngster Sophie Kelly replaced her in GA. As the quarter progressed Pulse began to find connections with Burger holding strong under the post. Storm retained their lead and went into the first break up 12-8.
The second quarter saw Storm maintain their flow in attack and move the ball quickly through court. Both sides took a while to settle and eventually Parsons took control for Storm and was dictating play from the circle edge. Adio seized an opportunity to make her mark on the game with a timely intercept but Storm still held the scoreboard advantage with 16 goals to 10. Pulse scored a settling goal but weren’t able to convert our next centre pass.
Rothwell slotted nicely into GA while Storm maintained a six goal advantage. The injection of Fadoju into GD forced a Storm turnover and Pulse equalised with 2 minutes to go in the half. Storm responded by bringing on Kwangwa for her Superleague debut. A breaking call meant Storm went on a three goal run but Pulse scored just before the half time whistle closing the gap to two.
After the half time break the two goal difference remained and both teams were playing with physicality and hustling for the ball. The game see-sawed as Fadoju stole the ball from mid-air but it was handed back to Priest who took the intercept up the other end. Pulse made several changes, bringing powerhouse Lindsay Keable back on, while Fadoju moved into WD and Michelle Drayne was introduced at C. These changes seem to make a big impact defensively as Adio created a hard earned turnover giving us a boost. Storm led by just one goal as the Pulse defence kicked into gear.
With five minutes left in the quarter Pulse brought the score back level and then managed to capitalize on a Storm held ball and pull ahead by two. Storm weren’t backing down and through a settler shot from Kelly and disruption by Priest at the back they levelled the scores again.
Sigi Burger took a well earned rest on the bench and was replaced by Olivia Tchine at GS. The scoreline was neck and neck and the teams traded possession back and forth. Adio was a workhorse at the back and Drayne sprung into action picking up an intercept following a missed shot from the Pulse front line. The difference was just one goal going into the final break and Pulse had our noses in front leading 33-32.
The final quarter opened with an early steal from Adio and Tchine scored a spectacular goal while falling out of court! Pulse took our lead out to 35-32 but Storm put in a big effort to get the scoreline back level with six minutes to go. The defence from both teams was outstanding and Storm managed to creep ahead, with Kelly taking control of the Storm attack to extend their lead. It was a nailbiter and Storm were up by three goals with just three minutes remaining. In the final minute Pulse were two behind with the centre pass but a spilled ball over the back line meant we missed the opportunity to close the gap.
The game wasn’t over yet and credit to an incredible intercept from Keable with just 40 seconds left on the clock, Pulse were one behind. Unfortunately for Pulse Storm were careful with possession from their centre pass and finished 42 – 40 with a goal on the final whistle through Kelly.
Head Coach Sam Bird had this to say about the opening encounter of VNSL 2021:
“We are all disappointed about losing this opener – we had a slow start and fought our way back to be in front. Better discipline in sticking to task and maintaining our structures will be our focus on training this week before we take on Thunder”.
We are back in action on Feb 21st as we face Manchester Thunder at 6pm – live on Sky Sports.
Authored by Lucy Pollock
Photo: Ben Lumley