You would never have known that the battle between Academy in 2nd place of Premier Division 1 was against 2nd from bottom Hucclecote as both teams produced an unbelievable performance and one would have said it was like watching a top of the league table battle.

Sadly for Hucclecote , Academy came out on top but it wasn’t for lack of effort on Hucclecote’s part who for 45 minutes stole the show.

Hucclecote began with Gray in at GS, Beveridge, GA, Smith at WA, Brennan at C and a defence unit of Walsh, Gabriel (Capt) and Sam Cook. Academy did not know what had hit them as the first centre pass was stolen from them and Hucclecote demonstrated some great through court play. With Academy featuring many of the Mavericks Super League players, and with ex stalwart England International Amanda Newton in at GK, Hucclecote’s performance certainly saw them surprise their opposition as they played the better netball with Gray and Beveridge’s movement leaving the Academy defence standing and Gray particularly doing well netting 9/11 attempts. Smith also played some great 1’2’s driving at speed to the circle edge. At the back end, Walsh, Gabriel and Cook were awesome, and turned 5 balls in the first 15 helping Hucclecote to take a 4 goals lead 12 – 8 in the first quarter, silencing the Academy bench and putting their attack, Buchannan, Baumgartner, Alice Ewing and Vicky Joseph under huge pressure.

A confident Hucclecote stayed the same for the second period however Academy began to read play and capitalised on some ill disciplined errors from Hucclecote . This also allowed Newton to use her vast experience in the defensive circle which slowed down the Hucclecote opportunities although Gray still continued to net some important shots scoring 6/9 attempts . Beveridge and Brennan worked hard to support but as time progressed Academy edged ahead. Camilla Buchannan worked at an intense speed for Academy driving through court and her linkage through to Joseph began to take more effect as she was able to penetrate through. An on form Joseph netted 11 from 12 attempts. Defensively though Cook and Gabriel pairing saw another 3 turnovers in the circle and with Walsh having one of her best games of the season saw her steal a further 2 intercepts as well as creating two turnovers by tips being picked up, but it was not enough to maintain the lead and the tide turned in Academy’s favour at 21-19 at half time.

Coach Gilly Salter decided it was time for change and brought on fresh legs in the form of youngsters Brooks to Centre and Hallbrook to GS. Academy also switched their key GS Vicklyn Joseph out to GA. Although Cote’s attack took a few minutes to settle and nerves played a part in few missed opportunities, it wasn’t long before they found their rhythm again with Hallbrook eventually securing 9 from 14 attempts. Defensively Hucclecote found the change easier to manage and with Walsh on fire at WD taking 3 intercepts, and with Gabriel sticking to task keeping the GA out of the circle, reduced Academy’s shooting opportunities by a huge margin. Beveridge’s court play and experience saw her use her defending skills to Hucclecote’s advantage during this game and she also turned two clean interceptions working tirelessly in the transition phase. Lauren Brooks also turned ball and apart from one error in this quarter stepped up to the challenge well. This was another great quarter by Hucclecote as they edged back into the game leaving it at 28 each with the final quarter looming.

With the plan to refresh legs Brennan came back on to WA and the rest stayed the same. For the first 5 minutes it went goal for goal and nothing separated the teams then Walsh went down with an ankle injury and time out was called. Unable to continue, Smith took the WD bib and play commenced again. This seemed to be a turning point in Academy’s favour as the disruption saw Hucclecote lose concentration and struggle to penetrate through to the shooting circle. Academy had also moved Joseph back to GS which gave them more opportunity although in this phase Cook took an amazing 3 turnovers and a rebound, and Gabriel stole two more. It was not for lack of effort from Hucclecote’s back end that saw Hucclecote suddenly trail by 5 goals but quite simply an experienced Defending Unit from Academy that pressured Hucclecote’s shooters and attacking end hard. Hucclecote were unable to penetrate through to goal and with Hallbrook reduced to just 3/5 attempts and Beveridge netting 3/ 4 attempts, their tally of 9 attempts compared to Academy’s 20 attempts in this phase showed the difference allowing Academy to steal the game by 7 goals 41-34.

Player of the match was award to two players, the defensive unit of Jack Gabriel and Sam Cook for their tenacity in creating so many opportunities for Hucclecote.

It was a disappointed Hucclecote who came off the court, but they do need to take on board that this was a much improved performance from their first seasons encounter when they lost by 29 goals. Hucclecote need to work on two things, they need to learn to finish the final 15 as they started, with positive thinking, and in addition, individually need to go back to the drawing board about how to change ‘their’ game when the tide turns. Easily said than done, but something that will need to be looked at during their next training session.

Salter was impressed with the play out on court today for 3 quarters of the game, and commented “ I could have changed the line up in a difference way when Walsh went down, it’s tough when you have to make a split second decision but the other option of pushing the front unit up, Beveridge to WA, Brennan back to C, and bringing on Gray to GA was a 3 player move and I wasn’t sure that it might be one move too many”. With two more remaining fixtures to go, Hucclecote will have to keep their motivation levels up as they face the challenge of avoiding relegation but will hopefully secure a place at play-offs to retain Division One for next year which they so deserve.

Squad:- G. Gray, O. Beveridge, L. Smith, N. Brennan, K. Walsh, J. Gabriel (Capt), S. Cook, L. Brooks, F. Edwards, L. Hallbrook,

Hucclecote 34/56 attempts 58%

Academy 41/53 attempts 73%

Thanks to Sue Wainwright, Barb Warburton, Becky Hemmings and Jo Lambert for their support on the bench and the score table.

Coach: Gilly Salter