Belfast Telegraph

Netball stars lose ground in play-off race

By Richard Bullick

Team Northumbria's chances of making the British SuperLeague's top four play-offs have taken a hit with a second consecutive loss on their own court.

Double defeat for the Northern Ireland-dominated Tyneside franchise has seen Northumbria slip down the table.

Losing two home matches in the space of five days is a considerable blow for last season's bottom team, who had briefly gone joint top of the table after three successive victories.

They fancied their chances of maintaining that winning streak at home to Hertfordshire Mavericks in front of the Sky Sports cameras last Monday night, but were beaten 51-41.

Playing the game the day after returning from a demanding tour to the West Indies predictably proved tough for the influential Northern Ireland contingent in the Northumbria ranks.

Beating Barbados has been branded Northern Ireland's greatest ever victory in international netball, but it understandably took a physical and emotional toll on the players. They had made the long trip home from the Caribbean last Sunday after three games in three days and went 7-0 down early on before scoring eight of the next 11 goals.

However, Hertfordshire gradually got away and had 10 goals to spare in the end, half the margin unbeaten league leaders Surrey Storm won by in Newcastle.

Acting captain Noleen Lennon, Oonagh McCullough, Caroline O'Hanlon and defender Fionnuala Toner were NI's four starters against Storm.

The London franchise have been by far the most impressive side in SuperLeague this season and ominously led 18-9 at the first break.

But, cheered on by an appreciative crowd, Northumbria battled back to take the second quarter 14-12, having at one stage reduced the arrears to four goals.

However, Surrey Storm blew the home team away during a dominant third quarter before the spoils were shared in the last period to leave the final score 42-62.

In the Northern Ireland Premier League, there were three routine victories for leaders Larkfield, challengers Graduates and champions Belfast Ladies.

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