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Northern Ireland's Fionnuala Leeds the way in Super debut victory

 

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Winning start: Caroline O’Hanlon’s Manchester Thunder bolted to victory

Winning start: Caroline O’Hanlon’s Manchester Thunder bolted to victory

Winning start: Caroline O’Hanlon’s Manchester Thunder bolted to victory

It was a glorious opening night for Dan Ryan's Leeds Rhinos as netball's new Yorkshire franchise crushed Celtic Dragons 65-35 in their first ever Vitality SuperLeague game.

Northern Ireland's Aussie head coach is doubling up as Rhinos supremo and his side hit the ground running with an impressively polished performance in Wakefield.

Ryan's Rhinos outscored the Welsh side in each of the four quarters, which have been shortened to 12 minutes this season instead of the standard 15.

Giant Aussie shooting sensation Donnell Wallam, a relatively recent convert from basketball, looked like a superstar in the making as she rattled in some spectacular goals.

The honour of leading Rhinos in their historic first fixture fell to Northern Ireland defender Fionnuala Toner, who was withdrawn at half-time after picking up a warning.

Coach Ryan had the luxury of leaving Toner on the sideline for the remainder of the match on an evening when he was able to empty his bench.

Young Northern Ireland international Michelle Magee didn't make the matchday squad for Rhinos, with newly-signed Kiwi Tuaine Keenan coming straight in at goalkeeper.

Current English international Vicki Oyseola and Toner have the other two starting spots in defence nailed down, while Paige Kindred and Rosie Harris got time as subs.

Toner's co-captain, England's most capped player of all time, Jade Clarke, showed all her experience controlling the game from centre and picked up Player of the Match.

Leading 14-6 after the opening period, Rhinos were 29-17 up at half-time before pulling away with a 19-6 third quarter scoreline and won by a 30-goal margin.

In the second game of last night's Sky Sports double-header, Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon's champions Manchester Thunder launched their title defence with an expected 53-36 victory over Strathclyde Sirens.

Belfast Telegraph


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