University of Leeds 1sts 35 – 36 Liverpool 1sts
LEEDS netball 1sts agonisingly missed the opportunity to close the gap between them and first-place Liverpool 1sts as a tense end saw the latter edge the match 36-35. After falling six behind at the end of the first quarter, Leeds fought back superbly before a gut-wrenching final minute saw Liverpool reclaim the lead and ultimately the match.
Leeds struggled to upset the Liverpool rhythm early on as they asserted their authority on the court. Liverpool, now undefeated after seven matches in the league this season, dominated the first quarter as both their goal shooter and goal attack capitalised on most of the opportunities that came their way. Despite Leeds’ centre Lucy Hemsley getting the better of her opposite number, chances were few and far between for Emma Crofts and Beth Horridge in attack as Liverpool took a 13-7 lead into the first break.
Some quality reading of the game from Leeds’ Bea Skingsley exemplified her team’s increased intensity from the start of the second quarter as an amazing run saw Horridge and Crofts score nine goals between them to Liverpool’s two, to see Leeds take the lead for the first time in the match at 16-15. The elevated performance from the Leeds girls was now clearly getting to their opponents, as their fast-paced passing game fell apart, allowing Leeds to dominate the space as they found their own passing game. Liverpool refused to let the game get away from them as they fought back valiantly themselves to reclaim the lead before a brilliant interception from Meg Clark sparked a quick counter which Crofts expertly put away. The match was hanging in the balance as the half-time whistle blew 20-20.
The third quarter got off to the perfect start as the fresh-legged Katie Cresswell skilfully evaded her defender to allow her fellow substitute Sarah Haynes to grab her first goal of the match and put Leeds ahead. Both teams struggled for goals as they aimed to take control of the game with sluggish passing and frantic play seeing a lull in scoring. Leeds did eventually take the ascendency as they scored four unanswered goals to go up 25-21 halfway through the quarter. However, Liverpool illustrated their undefeated credentials once again by refusing to let the scoreline get the better of them to crawl their way back to within one goal. Leeds did get the better of the low-scoring quarter to go into the final period 27-26 in front.
Liverpool evened the match straight from the restart as persistent fouls on their attacking pair allowed them numerous chances to score, which they ultimately seized. Leeds replied instantly, refusing to let Liverpool out of their own half or maintain any attacks, as Haynes scored three on the trot to put Leeds 30-27 up. Liverpool was able to equalise for the umpteenth time in the match despite some quality work by the tireless Claire Wilsher in defence. With only a minute left on the clock the sides were still locked at 34 apiece.
Unfortunately, Lady Luck must be Scouse as Liverpool went ahead for the first time since the second quarter before doubling their lead seconds later. Leeds did manage to get one back before the final whistle but it was regrettably in vain, as Liverpool finished 36-35 on top.
Featured image: Jack Roberts