Excitement filled the Sports Centre as the 1s got underway in the sports hall, with plenty of onlookers from both universities.
The home side kept it tight early on, trailing 4-6 around half way through the first quarter, but fell to a 5-12 deficit by quarter time. Newcastle had missed some clear cut opportunities in the first quarter, so changes for the second quarter included the introduction of Beth Marron as goal shooter, who was clinical throughout the game. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to stem the flow of Northumbria, who themselves had star attackers in the shape of Abbie Lebroq and Tamsin Moala, the latter barely missing the mark all afternoon. Leading 14-27 at half time, the second two quarters became somewhat of a formality as the goal difference barely dropped below ten once, before late dominance saw Poly extend their advantage to over 20, winning 52-31 at full time.
Following the 1s defeat, the 3s took to the court ahead of the Stan Calvert finale featuring the 2s. With a starting lineup of Theakston, Phiri, Bower, Francis, Naylor, Roberts and Wainwright, hopes were high of a closer game than the one the crowd has just seen.
By full time, Northumbria's class was evident
An excellent quarter kept Northumbrian scores to a minimum, but by the end of the second quarter a seven-point gap had opened up at 16-23. By the start of the final quarter, that advantage had opened up to ten points, despite some ferocious defending from the home side. By full time, Northumbria’s class was evident, running out 31-46 winners to add another two points to Poly’s Stan Calvert tally.
On the back of sizable defeats for their 1s and 3s, Newcastle University’s Netball 2s were defeated 58-35 on home turf by the favoured Northumbria University side.
The match acted as one of two multaneous finales, with futsal centre stage over at Sport Central. Both were expected to be tight affairs that would entertain those that had made the effort to support Newcastle and Northumbria until the end of the day.
Going into the finale, both teams were playing for pride, with news of Northumbria’s Stan Calvert victory being broken by The Courier Sport at 3.52pm during the Netball 3s fixture.
Newcastle struck first in the match, after centre Seriya Vao picked out goal shooter (GS) Elizabeth McVie, who in turn found goal attack (GA) Lucie Bultitude with a deft bounce pass on the edge of the goal circle. Bultitude made no mistakes, standing two yards from the goal ring, the GA confidently converted.
Northumbria responded immediately from the centre pass, as Ellen Wright played a swift one-two with centre Holly Clark before picking out Faye Bateson with a clear sight of the ring. The GS levelled the scores as Newcastle hastily took to the centre circle to restart proceedings.
Bultitude made no mistakes, standing two yards from the goal ring, the GA confidently converted
Throughout the early stages, the two teams were well-matched, as the lead was regularly exchanged between the sides. Bultitude added another for Newcastle, before wing attack (WA) Rachael Lickorish clinically converted seconds later. Several waves of Northumbria attacks were successfully defended by Newcastle’s goalkeeper (GK)
Emily Heppenstall and goal defence (GD) Mia Day, but they finally ceded as the score quickly went from 7-7 to 17-9 to Northumbria by the end of the first quarter.
Emerging for the second quarter unchanged, Newcastle looked to cut the 9-point deficit that Northumbria had accumulated. However, their efforts went unrewarded as they slipped to 17 points behind the leaders, with a rare highlight being Lickorish’s goal at the end of the quarter.
Despite the game starting out as arguably the most even of the netball fixtures so far, Northumbria only stretched their advantage in the final two quarters, much to the dismay of the onlooking Uni faithful.
With the visiting team more than doubling the points tally of Newcastle by half time, the home side felt the need to make some squad changes in order to combat the deficit. Lora Hunt entered the fray at GK, with Lickorish moving into WD, Folger coming inside to centre, Katie Isbister taking on the WA role and Rosie Shouler-Harris given the GA responsibility.
Isbister began to show her class as her quick feet and swift balls played into the shooters began to unlock the Northumbria defence as intended. Two goals were unfortunately cancelled out by the Northumbrian juggernaut to take the score to 17-34, before a brief period of Newcastle superiority pegged the women in black and red back to 19-35.
Throughout the early stages, the two teams were well-matched, as the lead was regularly exchanged between sides
As they had shown throughout the match, Northumbria’s energy and precision proved too much for the Newcastle women and the stability in their team meant Newcastle didn’t look like getting back into the game without a miracle. Continuing at GK for the whole four quarters, Northumbria’s Rebecca Mcculick limited Newcastle’s shooting opportunities, the very opportunities that the home side needed plenty of at this stage in the game.
Not only were Northumbria consistent in defence, but in attack they were persistent, energetic and cutthroat.WA Ellen Wright, who played all four quarters and wreaked havoc from start to finish, tore into Newcastle as they began to tire, and extended their lead to 20-39. Newcastle’s 21st goal of the game came courtesy of McVie who, as the game went on, made a name for herself finishing efforts from long range.
The visitors’ captain Thompson played the first three quarters at WD, before tucking into GD for the final quarter to shore up the defence, cut out any leaks in the team and ensure that Northumbria got over the line unscathed. Despite this, Newcastle broke through sporadically, with McVie scoring another couple of goals following excellent passes from Lickorish.
When the score reached 30-44, the crowd would have been forgiven for thinking the onslaught was over, but from that moment Newcastle scored just five points while the visitors added 14, compounding their victory.
The full-time whistle blew at 35-58 in favour of the Poly, a result which turned out to be a microcosm for this year’s competition as a whole. Outfought, outlasted, outscored, the Newcastle team gave it everything they had, but it wasn’t enough to survive the Northumbria storm.