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Round 7 of the NSL sees the top two sides earn dominant wins

The NSL 2024 hit the seventh round this weekend, as the table begins to take a regular shape. Final four regulars Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning are flying high at the top and can only be separated by a goal difference of five. Last year’s finalists London Pulse are hot on their heels, as are Severn Stars, who are impressing this season. Currently in fifth and sixth place respectively are Saracens Mavericks and Cardiff Dragons, the latter of which I have tipped to be the dark horses this season due to wins in pre-season. They are proving difficult to get by so far. As we move down to the bottom of the table, we find Surrey Storm, who finished in fourth place last season, and Leeds Rhinos, who have only two wins, despite the defensive giant of former England star Geva Mentor. Team Bath were once up there with the top teams, but last season they finished ninth and this season their hopes look no better. Right at the bottom, Scottish side Strathclyde Sirens are yet to earn a win.

On Friday, Severn Stars travelled to Hertfordshire to face Saracens Mavericks. The match ended in a Stars victory 58-56, keeping Saracens out of the top four and opening up a five point gap between fourth and fifth place. The away side have enjoyed their fair share of tight games, having lost last week by the same margin to Cardiff Dragons. Stars will take real faith from this game as they pushed though the pressure to take the three points.

Next, reigning champions Loughborough Lightning travelled up to Scotland to play Srathclyde Sirens. It was always going to be a tough game for the home team against the strength and depth of the Lightning squad, with shooter Mary Cholhok developing her game further this season and the combination of GK Alice Harvey and GD Nicola Smith proving a challenge for most attackers. Lightning’s midcourt speed and ability to get turnovers themselves also limited Strathclyde’s ability to convert the turnovers they did get. In the end, it was a difficult night for the home fans, as they watched Lightning rip through their team to take the win 72-36.

Loughborough’s display of dominance was answered the following evening by Manchester Thunder, who hosted Team Bath. Once again, the franchise from the North West went straight back to the top of the table, as they flexed their muscles against Team Bath, who did not have a response to Thunder, despite keeping their goals to a minimum in the second quarter. The top two teams are not letting up in their race to snatch first place and therefore a potentially less challenging semi-final against the fourth placed team. How the fourth placed team, currently Severn Stars, will take to being seen as an easier match-up, we will find out after the regular season ends following round 18.

Also in round 7, Leeds Rhinos and Surrey Storm enjoyed a middle-of-the-table clash, with Rhinos coming out victors 64-60 in what was a closely-fought challenging match. With that victory, Rhinos earn their second win and are within three points of Storm. Playing on the Saturday were Cardiff Dragons and London Pulse. Dragons have been performing well this season and have already collected ten points, already an improvement on their dismal 2023 season. However, Pulse came fresh from the capital with many rising stars, including England defender Funmi Fadjou, as well as the familiar face of experienced England international Jade Clarke. The might of Mentor, who has featured for England at six commonwealth games, could not stop the power of Pulse. The win for London steadies the ship, after a loss to Stars in round five, followed by a tense, two-goal win against Rhinos last week caused Pulse to wobble.

Unfortunately, three of the games in round 7 were not streamed at all, depriving me, and many other netball fans, of some good games of netball. Although the BBC showing one game a week is a significant move, as the NSL looks towards a professional future, this lack of coverage feels like a step backwards from last season. For round 8, again only two of the games appear to be available to watch, and after the last game on Sky Sports was put on YouTube, where the quality of the feed was poor, I do not have high hopes for the media coverage this year, given that the majority of the games are not being broadcast. How can we demand that netball be covered by the media when the games are not available to watch online?

Welsh side Dragons head to Loughborough on Friday 5th April to try to topple the champions. I have the privilege of being there in person to watch the action. Later that evening, Sirens will be looking for an unlikely win against Pulse at the Copper Box Arena. Meanwhile, Bath will host Rhinos as both teams aim to pick up valuable points. On the Saturday, Thunder will hope to boom against Mavericks, who will want to close the gap on the top four. For the final game of the eighth round, Severn Stars welcome Surrey Storm, with the hosts wanting to continue their excellent form.

Round 7 results:

  • Saracens Mavericks 56- 58 Severn Stars
  • Strathclyde Sirens 36-72 Loughborough Lightning
  • Leeds Rhinos 64-60 Surrey Storm
  • Manchester Thunder 79-42 Team Bath Netball
  • Cardiff Dragons 37-52 London Pulse

My round 8 predictions:

  • Loughborough Lightning 62-45 Cardiff Dragons
  • London Pulse 58-38 Strathclyde Sirens
  • Team Bath Netball 39-48 Leeds Rhinos
  • Saracens Mavericks 46-59 Manchester Thunder
  • Severn Stars 58-45 Surrey Storm-

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Additionally, visit the NSL website to discover more.

Looking to get into netball? Head to the England Netball website to find your nearest club.

Also, see other articles from me below, including revision tips as GCSEs edge closer. 

By Natasha Callis

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