Team Bath earned an “ugly win” over Severn Stars to remain the only Netball Superleague team with a 100% record, head coach Anna Stembridge said.
Bath made it five victories out of five, beating Manchester Thunder 60-35 on Friday before a 49-30 win over Stars on Saturday.
Stembridge said of the win over Stars: “It was definitely a physical encounter. It wasn’t pretty netball.”
Loughborough Lightning are top, having played two games more than Bath.
Lightning also earned two wins in as many days as they convincingly beat Surrey Storm 56-37 and followed up with a less than comfortable 52-40 win over struggling London Pulse.
Head coach Sara Bayman said: “We knew that Pulse were going to cause us problems and we allowed them to cause us a lot in that opening quarter.
“It was about remaining calm under pressure; we talk about wanting pressure situations and we got one.”
Thunder also came up short against Wasps, prompting strong words from head coach Karen Greig.
“I’m really disappointed. I think the girls are as well so it’s back to the drawing board and rockets up some backsides,” she said.
Defensive duo shine as Bath dominate
England defensive duo Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth impressed as Bath won every quarter in Friday’s commanding victory over Thunder, with Kim Borger putting in a player-of-the-match performance under the post.
The Blue and Golds also had too much on Saturday for local rivals Severn Stars, who had recorded their first win of the season on Friday, beating Surrey Storm 49-46 despite being without key mid-court player Liana Leota through injury.
Wasps also enjoyed a 53-44 win over Thunder, who beat them in the 2019 Grand Final.
On Sunday, injury-hit Leeds Rhinos – despite impressive link-up play between Sienna Rushton and Rhea Dixon – fell to a 53-41 defeat by a Wasps side still feeling the effects of the previous day’s win over Thunder.
A tenacious Strathclyde Sirens held Saracens Mavericks to 34-34, the first match to finish level under new rules that allow draws this season.
Tough week for champions Thunder
Thunder head coach Greig said her players were making “tired errors, sloppy errors” as the defending champions returned from a two-week break by losing both matches over the weekend.
The Black and Yellows asserted themselves early against Bath on Friday in a breathless opening quarter but lost defender Emma Dovey to injury early on and struggled to build momentum without their captain.
Dovey returned for the second quarter but the interruption knocked Thunder, who were unable to pull apart a well-drilled Bath defence.
“We didn’t play like Thunder,” said head coach Greig.
Thunder’s confidence was visibly knocked by Bath’s dominance, and then they had to face 2018 champions Wasps just 24 hours later.
Wasps’ wealth of experience in Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris in the shooting circle left Thunder struggling to keep up in a performance marred by panicked decisions and untidy errors.
“We’re making tired errors, sloppy errors, giving the ball away, last quarter we pulled it to six and we know that we can put scoreboard pressure on a team,” Greig said.
Thunder lacked cutting edge and the tenacity and potency that has so often been their trademark.
Greig added: “We’ve got to put ourselves under some real pressure at training this week. I think that intensity needs to be there. The intensity was lacking from us.”
Results & fixtures
Round five & six
Friday, 12 March
Severn Stars 49-46 Surrey Storm
Team Bath 60-35 Manchester Thunder
Saturday, 13 March
Surrey Storm 37-56 Loughborough Lightning
Team Bath 49-30 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 44-53 Wasps
Sunday, 14 March
Strathclyde Sirens 34-34 Saracens Mavericks
Loughborough Lightning 52-40 London Pulse
Wasps 53-41 Leeds Rhinos
Monday, 15 March
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons
Leeds Rhinos v Strathclyde Sirens