Mavericks and Team Bath are table-toppers with three more group games to go
Team Bath Netball and Saracens Mavericks hold the aces heading into the final round of group matches at The BiG Showdown at the University of Bath.
The Blue & Gold entered the day with a perfect three wins from three but were beaten by Mavericks in the first game, leaving both sides on nine points at the top of the leaderboard.
All remains to play for with five teams still in with a chance of qualifying for the final later this afternoon, all the games broadcast live on the BBC Sport website.
Team Bath v Saracens Mavericks
The opening match of the day was the highly anticipated clash between two of the sides well fancied to reach the final.
However, it was Mavericks who would run out 37-21 victors in a ruthless performance.
Attacking with speed and incision from the off, they swiftly opened up a 5-1 advantage.
The hosts pulled that back to 5-4 with an interception in mid-court from Sophie Drakeford-Lewis spurring Team Bath.
But the star of the show was Mavericks’ goal-shooter George Fisher. The England international constantly found a yard of space from first Eboni Usoro-Brown and, after the first quarter, Summer Artman.
Team Bath were patient in their approach but the pressure applied from Mavericks made life tough around the shooting circle.
This allowed them to open up a 21-8 lead at half-time, as they also showed the ability to mix-up their range of passing.
The introduction of Kim Commane gave the Blue & Gold a lift in the shooting circle. So dominant at GS last season, she instead featured at goal-attack and brought a composure high up the court for Team Bath.
They were able to put together a couple of stronger runs of points but Mavericks would maintain their 13-point advantage entering the final quarter.
That last stanza saw Fisher depart, however her team-mates continued her good work with a strong finish to run out comfortable winners.
Surrey Storm v Strathclyde Sirens
Surrey Storm finished on the front foot as they overcame Strathclyde Sirens 30-22 in the second game of the day.
However, it was Sirens quicker out of the blocks as they raced into a 5-0 lead. On top defensively in the opening stages with former Team Bath star Zan Vimbela at goal-keeper, the Scottish franchise were quick to counter on every turnover.
But Storm found their form in the shooting circle to race back, levelling up at 5-5 right on the hooter.
The second quarter was a different story and exceedingly tight throughout – the first two points going against the centre passes.
Neither team was able break into a bigger lead than two points but Storm held the edge 12-11 at half-time.
That story ran into the third quarter before Surrey made the decisive break.
Karyn Bailey’s switch from GA to GS proved decisive as her height gave Storm a key outlet, which helped them streak into a 17-13 lead with a three-point break.
And by the final period the tables had well and truly turned, with Sirens shut down on the attack and Storm, Bailey in particular, clinical at the other end to see them over the line 30-22.
Knights v Severn Stars
Severn Stars picked up their first win of the BiG Showdown on the back of an opening-quarter surge against Knights.
Despite their tricky first day there was no doubting Stars’ confidence from the get-go.
Shooting duo Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe found the target regularly from the off – the latter taking on shots from all sorts of positions.
It was a different story for Knights, whose first goal arrived after the five-minute marker.
There was no doubting their speed coming forward, but Lewis Keeling and Chris Green would eventually find their range to end the quarter 10-2 down.
Knights brought on spring-heeled Jamal Nicholson at goal-attack for the second quarter and his appearance gave the Stars defence a different problem to contend with.
Almost all of their attacking play flowed through the livewire Nicholson, who immediately got on the board after his move from the bench.
That added impetus brought a new confidence in defence as well, with James O’Connor and Dan Jolley quick to intercept.
By half-time Stars remained ahead but Knights had closed the gap to two points at 16-14.
Stars threatened to pull away again at the start of the third stanza. They took full advantage of their own centre-passes to spring quickly back into a five-goal advantage, led by the imperious Reed.
But Knights would not go down easy and pulled back into the contest to within two points again heading into the final quarter.
A feisty encounter played in good spirit, the game was briefly held up for the umpires to speak with the captains.
Stars were able to weather the storm from Knights, who were just unable to close the gap.
Today’s final starts at 15.45. Team Bath Netball are sponsored by Centurion Chartered Financial Planners and Rengen. The team is working this year with Sporting Family Change, a local charity, to create impact on people’s lives through sport and physical activity.