Hucclecote Premier Squad encountered their first loss of the season against top of the table Academy in a battle on court that started at the first blow of the whistle against a very physical Academy side and ended with Kerry Walsh being carried off court in the final quarter. Even though Hucclecote had 10 more attempts at Goal, it was Academy's consistency netting 86% overall that won them the honours.
The first 15 saw Hucclecote start in fine form , taking their time to work the ball to the circle edge using their decision making skills well with some great play by Walsh. This enabled shooter Rosie Allison to net 8 from 10 in the first quarter. Academy, who were given permission to field National player Nada Hutchinson to gain experience at WD , used her physical presence along side ex England player Natalie Seaton at WD and GD respectively, but failed in the first 15 to make the impact that they should have done.
Meanwhile at the other end of court Academy began to find Vicklyn Joseph their GS with ease as she demonstrated great athletism when taking the ball and convert well. However it was Hucclecotes tight defending which led Sarah Lee to turn 3 clear intercepts during this period, and combined with Jackie Gabriel also tight on the ball, led their team to a 14-8 lead at the end of the first 15.
Two changes were made on the Hucclecote side bringing on the young Sam Cook at GK replacing Rosie Barrett, and Gemma Gray to GA replacing Beveridge. Cook made an immediate impact, and defensively this unit looked solid. With Academy changing their strategy to double on Rosie Allison, and with the pressure defending turned up a level by Hutchinson and Seaton, Hucclecotes earlier steadiness and rythm began to break down with at least 12 errors taking place in this quarter alone in attack from the third line through to the shooting circle. The score of 20 each at half time reflected this.
Coach Gilly Salter opted for further changings, bringing Barret on to WD, and pushed the unit forward of Sarah Lee to C and Kerry Walsh to WA with Olivia Beveridge back on to GA. Their steady play resumed although they struggled at times to feed their shooters with Academy really upping the pressure. This quarter went in Academy's favour as they took a 2 goal lead going into the final quarter 32-30.
A final change for the home team saw Barrett back at her more familiar position at GK, and Sarah Lee to WD, with Sam Cook being pushed out to Centre. Cook offered the steadiness that was required, and played some great netball through court. Captain Jackie Gabriel gave 100% throughout even though carrying a fractured rib, driving with great determination in bringing the ball through court. In attack, an injury to Kerry Walsh saw her removed from court with Becky Hemmings replacing her at the WA position. Hucclecote hit hard with a quick succession of of goals after being 3 down, and clawed this to within one. Pressure to feed the shooters as they were tightly marked added more pressure and this pressure showed with consistency of shot just dropping off at a time that could have given Hucclecote the edge. A final intercept saw Hucclecote level to 40 all, but with Academy having the next centre pass they took the ball to goal and put this away easily. A final flurry in the last 30 seconds saw the ball in the Hucclecote circle, and with the clock ticking down Hucclecote had one final attempt to equalise in the last few seconds but failed to convert, leaving the score in Academys favour by 41 to 40 goals.
This was Hucclecotes first defeat of the season, however credit must be given to Hucclecote for their work rate and determination to push this all the way to the final minute with Sarah Lee earning a well deserved Player of the Match.
Squad: R Allison O Beveridge G Gray B Hemmings K Walsh S Lee J Gabriel (Capt) R Barrett S Cook
Player of the Match : Sarah Lee
Stats: R Allison 33/43 76.56% O Beveridge 6/12 50% G Gray 1/2 50% Overall 40/57 70%