Both sides were vying to win the league, which would see them qualify for a play-off spot to compete in the national Premier League. Newcastle needed a win in order to win the league on goal difference.
At the start of the game, Leeds were facing the intimidating presence of the viewing platform, which was packed to the rafters with supporters of Newcastle Netball Club cheering on their firsts team. Newcastle kicked off proceedings, drawing the first blood. The hosts were off to a good start with Leeds fumbling the ball and looking as if they hadn’t quite woken up from their 97-mile journey to the north. Newcastle were looking sharp, with quick passing at the top of the court ensuring that goal-shooter Beth Marron and goal-attack Jaz Langley had plenty of opportunity to score. The home side were taking advantage of Leeds’ shaky defence with some overhead passing, enabling plenty of goals, with goal-attack, goal-shooter and wing-attack working well together. At the back of the court, goalkeeper, Lora Hunt, was doing well to counter Leeds attack. The quarter finished 19-13 to Newcastle, and they were looking incredibly dominant.
Newcastle went into the second quarter with an unchanged side, they launched into the next part with an incredible amount of pace and energy.
Leeds still hadn’t quite woken up and were dropping passes all over the court, allowing Newcastle to capitalise and create goal-scoring opportunities. Hunt again proved herself invaluable in this quarter, blocking balls left, right and centre, leaving Leeds confused and out of ideas a lot of the time. Newcastle again finished the quarter incredibly strong, leading 32-24.
The third quarter was arguably the game-changer. Leeds must have had some sort of kick up the arse from their coach as they launched into an extraordinary comeback.
The visitors initially seemed to be making the same mistakes as seen in previous quarters, dropping and fluffing balls. However, after a couple of minutes they suddenly woke up and started attacking with far more aggression. Newcastle were initially able to contain this, with their centre making excellent blocks. However, this didn’t faze Leeds in the slightest, and they grew stronger as the quarter ploughed on, finishing 39-45 to the visitors.
A massive quarter was needed from the hosts in order to have a shot at the qualifiers for the Premier League. Newcastle made a substitution, with Jess Merrin coming into wing-attack. They looked incredibly lively and hungry, launching into a flurry of goals. Newcastle’s goal-attack, centre and goal-shooter worked well together, making smart passes and finding good pockets of space. Leeds weren’t giving up easily, and they kept up a steady goal-scoring pace. As the clock wore down, the home team tried to deploy the longball tactic, which had mixed success rates. Eventually, with limited time left to play, Leeds figured the game was sealed and started passing the ball around the park in a timewasting exercise similar to Joey Barton’s Fleetwood side against Sunderland last Tuesday. Despite Newcastle’s frustrations, they couldn’t find the goals. Leeds took the game 53-58.
Although Newcastle didn’t win the game, they can be incredibly proud of their determination and resilience shown throughout the match. The firsts finish the Northern Tier 1 League in second, with six wins and four losses throughout the entire season.