The University of Birmingham’s womens Netball 2nds have continued their march in the BUCS Netball trophy 2019 with a closely-contested 45-44 victory over the University of Exeter’s 1sts. Played at the Sports and Fitness Centre, the game brought out spectators from both sides to create an electric atmosphere for a match that will last long in the memory.
Entering the match, Exeter were somewhat of an unknown quantity given that they usually play in the BUCS Western division where they are currently unbeaten this season with a perfect 9-0 record. This form was an ominous reminder that the Lions would have to be on top of their game if they were to get a result. And on top of their game they were, in the early stages of the first-quarter they put on a dominant display with a series of excellent combinations between the players that left the Exeter defence tied up in knots.
However, Exeter seemed to grow into the game as the end of the first-quarter loomed. This pressure paid off for them as they managed to reduce the lead Birmingham had built up and go in at the break with the score 12-10 in the host’s favour.
The second-quarter was mostly a continuation of the first with both teams struggling to stamp their authority and gain a commanding lead. With that said, Birmingham were still able to keep Exeter at arms-length to maintain their narrow lead and finish the quarter with the scoreboard reading 22-19.
Whatever the Lion’s coach said to the players during the interval clearly had a seismic effect on the team as they came out in the second-half with a renewed sense of motivation to try to put the game to bed. Their clinical finishing and resolute defensive work paid dividends as they finished the quarter 8 points to the good with the score at 35-27.
Despite this brilliant display, the fourth-quarter was Exeter’s turn to put on a show for their supporters. This up-turn in their form coincided with Birmingham faltering, as they gave away a series of fouls in dangerous positions. Coupled with some poor finishing from their attackers, this allowed their opponents back into the game and ultimately led to the game finishing 44-44.
Since this was a cup game, the match then went to extra-time where it was balanced on a knife-edge with very little separating the two teams. This was reflected by the score still being tied 50-50 at the break.
With the game so finely poised, it really came down to who could hold their nerve and convert their chances with such high stakes. The balance of play started to shift in the Lion’s favour as they turned the screw by pushing up high into their opponent’s final third. Their persistence was finally rewarded with the winning point in the dying seconds to make the final score 55-54.
The mood of the Exeter team after the match was one of dejection which was understandable given the character and spirit it took to come back and force the game to extra-time. In the game they proved to be worthy opponents and could hold their heads high as they embarked on the long journey back to the South-West.
For Birmingham however, the jubilation was clear on the faces of everyone involved as they had given so much during the match. Up next for UoB in the cup is a tricky home tie against Worcester 1sts so hopefully they can channel the grit and determination they showed today and make it to the final.