UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 28
UNIVERSITY OF TEESSIDE FIRSTS 26
BUCS League 4B – Wednesday 17th March
In a fire and brimstone encounter, York kept their cool to inflict only Teesside’s second league defeat of the season in an epic finale. The slender two-point margin of victory reflected a final-day match in which the momentum swung backwards and forwards on a minute-by-minute basis.
And yet we might have been deprived of this nail-biting climax. The game was called into question at half-time as Teesside’s Goal Defence was reprimanded for verbally abusing the match umpires, one of whom had packed her bags and was ready to depart in protest. It took nearly ten minutes and players from both sides to persuade her to continue following the unsavoury incident, which went against everything positive in the sport. The culprit was physical, bordering on overtly aggressive, throughout as she bullied Claire Dinan and Sarah Fisher, respectively York’s Goal Shooter and Goal Attack.
But this unpleasantness should not overshadow a first class performance, which delivered a fifth victory of the BUCS League campaign and a third place finish. Not bad for a team stranded at the bottom of the standings just a fortnight ago. Teesside may have taken the league championship by an eight-point margin, but they came totally unstuck here, York’s sangfroid when the tension mounted proving crucial.
Entering the game, there remained a slim mathematical possibility that York could be joining the seconds in League 5B on an afternoon when the indignity of relegation loomed over no less than four teams jostling in a ridiculously tight division. If this was a clear and present danger at the 4pm centre pass, however, it had been well and truly extinguished by 4.10 as the hosts ripped into their opponents.
Jo Brayshaw, who deputised for Jenni Williams at Goal Keeper, was redundant as Teesside were overwhelmed in the opening stages, quickly finding themselves six points behind. Rosie Gordon, the other change from the regular York line-up, was much more active at Wing Attack as she threaded passes in to Dinan and Fisher, who invariably capitalised. Liz Cowell, at Centre, was influential in building the lead, nipping around in the attacking third and negating the long ball tactic that had obviously been so effective in compiling Teesside’s 436 league goals this season. It didn’t work on this occasion as their immobile forwards were starved of possession for long spells, York’s final years determined to make the most of their last BUCS fling as they led 10-5 at the turnaround.
Jo Brayshaw, the York Goal Keeper, attempts to put off her opponent in Wednesday’s game. Teesside, who have racked up 436 points en route to the BUCS League 4B title, took until the second half to get going. Photograph by Peter Iveson
It was not until the second quarter that the visitors showed any kind of form, although their style of netball wasn’t pleasing on the eye. They infringed and intimidated, seizing possession and launching the ball forward in the hope of catching out Sarah Smith and Becky O’Dwyer in the York defence. Gradually, they hauled themselves back into contention and trailed by just a point at half-time, during which confusion reigned and sparks flew as both sides were called together by the umpires and given a stern reminder about on-court manners.
The interruption halted Teesside’s momentum, allowing York, crucially, to take a stranglehold on the game in the third quarter. With Kay Masterson warming up on the sidelines and poised to replace her, Dinan rose to the challenge with a string of long-range baskets, despite the Teesside Goal Keeper interpreting the defensive ‘lean’ as an excuse to jump into her opponent. With the home team leading 22-17 entering the final quarter, the match was delicately balanced.
Sarah Fisher and Claire Dinan battle for possession against a physical Teesside defence. The visiting Goal Defence was repeatedly reprimanded for verbal abuse and infringements. Photograph by Peter Iveson
But the best had been saved until last. Hearts were in mouths as the clock ticked down, Teesside nibbling away at the lead as they found their championship form. But York had enough in reserve and, adopting the policy of attack as the best form of defence, counter-attacked with skill and flair – crucial points from Fisher at 24-22 and Dinan, with arguably the best basket of the game, at 26-22, took them home.
All’s well that ends well for the netball firsts, then, in a season in which they flirted dangerously with relegation. There was never any doubt about their ability and teamwork – they were too good to go down – but in the end it was their mental strength and composure which saw them over the finish line and they retain their League 4B status for next season.
In the day’s other netball matches, the seconds beat Leeds Trinity and All Saints 35-21 to finish in second position behind Newcastle University fourths in League 5B and the thirds destroyed Bradford 61-34, ending their season third in League 6B.
York Line-up: GK – Josephine Brayshaw, GD – Sarah Smith, WD – Becky O’Dwyer, C – Liz Cowell, WA – Rosie Gordon, GA – Sarah Fisher, GS – Claire Dinan
Replacement (not used): Kay Masterson