Vitality Netball Superleague: Loughborough Lightning start title defense with victory | Netball News

The contest marked the start of the new season with nine matches taking place in Birmingham across the ‘Season Opener’ weekend; every match is live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel

Last Updated: 05/02/22 02:06 pm

Loughborough Lightning are up and running in the 2022 Superleague season (Image credit: Morgan Harlow)

Loughborough Lightning are up and running in the 2022 Superleague season (Image credit: Morgan Harlow)

Loughborough Lightning made a productive start to title defense with a 61-50 victory over London Pulse in the Vitality Netball Superleague ‘Season Opener’ weekend.

The defending champions were first on court at Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena against London Pulse and used the second set of 15 minutes to stamp their authority on the encounter.

The title holders can now put their feet up and watch the rest of the weekend’s action. They were supposed to play a second match on Sunday morning, however, their opponents Leeds Rhinos Netball are unable to field a team for the encounter due to Covid-19 cases, injuries and illness. As a result, the match has been postponed.

Lightning’s victory over Pulse marks the first of five encounters on Saturday, with Sunday’s line-up featuring a further four.

Every Superleague team other than Rhinos will take to court in Birmingham, with every contest being live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel.

Vitality Netball Superleague – Season Opener Saturday fixtures

1.45pm Team Bath Netball vs Strathclyde Sirens Live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix
3.30pm Manchester Thunder vs Celtic Dragons Live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix
5.15pm Wasps vs Saracens Mavericks Live on Sky Sports Arena and Mix
7pm Surrey Storm vs Severn Stars Live on Sky Sports Mix

With Sara Francis-Bayman taking an 18-month leave of absence, the match marked Victoria Burgess’ first in charge as director of netball.

Burgess handed a maiden start to England international Fran Williams at goal defense and partnered her with Alice Harvey in defense.

Stalwarts Beth Cobden, Nat Panagarry, Hannah Joseph and Ella Clark provided extensive experience through court, with Mary Cholhok’s familiar figure at goal shooter.

Pulse started with their two new Australian athletes – Sacha McDonald and Tayla Honey in attack – while putting Funmi Fadoju back at goal keeper alongside former Lightning player Jas Odeogerin.

The London side commenced their season strongly. Olivia Tchine confidently went to post and as a whole, they looked assured during the first quarter. However, the team were slow out of the blocks in the second and as champions do, Lightning pounced on their dip.

Despite the holders enjoying a 31-21 half-time lead, they were frustrated with captain Panagarry saying there was “plenty more to come”.

The holders were not able to fully put their foot on the gas in the second half though, but were able to mix up their line-up well. Burgess gave court time to Suzie Liverseidge, Hannah Williams and introduced Zanele Vimbela with four minutes to go.

Loughborough Lightning vs London Pulse

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 FT
Loughborough Lightning 14 17 15 15 61
London Pulse 11 10 14 15 50

Pulse used the second set of 30 minutes to return to a more settled game. They used a more familiar line-up to do it too, with Kira Rothwell and Ash Dekker on court.

The team’s patience paid dividends, as they kept Lightning within their sights and lost the second half by just one goal.

The ‘Season Opener’ weekend continues with four further matches and four on Sunday. Every contest will be live on Sky Sports and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel.

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