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Niamh Cooper helps Surrey storm straight back as Dragons are slayed



Niamh Cooper

Niamh Cooper

Niamh Cooper

Northern Ireland's Niamh Cooper played a blinder last night as Surrey Storm bounced back from Sunday's defeat to Leeds Rhinos by beating Cardiff franchise Celtic Dragons 56-40.

The london-based Belfast doctor was superb throughout at wing defence, applying typically claustrophobic pressure which helped snuff out any attacking fire from the Dragons.

This was a dominant display from Storm, the only team to have played four fixtures so far in this season's Superleague, and Cooper caught the eye in what was a convincing victory. Player-coach Mikki Austin, who came on at centre, had demanded her team be more ruthless after falling away against Rhinos.

A second double-header in as many weekends gave Austin's side a quick chance to make amends and they proved too strong for their Welsh opponents, who have yet to win a game. Ahead 15-11 at the first break, Storm were five up after the second quarter and consolidated in the third before impressively pulling away in a one-sided last period.

It had been a different story the day before when the Surrey side were narrowly ahead at half-time when Austin brought herself on, but ended up losing 50-44 to newcomers Rhinos.

Having picked up a caution earlier in the final quarter, Cooper came off with four minutes remaining.

Subduing Storm was another great result for Northern Ireland head coach Dan Ryan's Rhinos, who have been the story of Superleague so far in spite of multiple injury issues.

Against Storm, they were without the three first-choice starters they had in the previous Monday's nightmare match against Saracens Mavericks.

Aussie shooter Donnell Wallam, NI Warriors vice-captain Fionnuala Toner and Kiwi goalkeeper Tuaine Keenan are big name absentees but the understudies again stepped up.

The fact that another Northern Ireland defender, Michelle Magee, was an unused sub and is still waiting for her first Superleague appearance is testament to the Leeds squad's depth.

Magee's national team captain Caroline O'Hanlon was left out of the Manchester Thunder starting team on Sunday, but they still demolished London Pulse 57-30.

Michelle Drayne got the nod at centre for Pulse but they quickly found themselves 8-0 down against the champions, and the Hillsborough woman was withdrawn at half-time.

Belfast Telegraph

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