The Midlands Conference Cup is well into its latter stages and the tension and importance of each game has thus been heightened. Birmingham have battled their way through all priors rounds book their place in what was sure to be tense semi-final fixture at the Munrow. The University of Birmingham Netball 2s defeated their fellow Birmingham club mates in the 4s in the quarterfinals in the last round – it was clear that they were in no mood to take prisoners. Loughborough, on the other hand, were off the back of a tight fixture against Nottingham 3s to book their place in the semis. Neither team wanted to falter so close to the final. Both teams went into this fixture extremely confident as both teams hold 100% records in their respective leagues this year – 9 wins from 9 games – and it was shaping up to be a tough-fought encounter, with not only a final spot on the line, but pride too.
The first quarter was, unsurprisingly, a cagey affair. You couldn’t say which way it was going to go. Birmingham started the quarter on top, perhaps a sigh of nerves from the Loughborough outfit, keen to stage an upset on Birmingham turf. With 5 minutes to go, thanks to consistency around the net from the Birmingham goal shooter and attacker, Brum lead 10-5. Then something changed – Loughborough found their form which had clearly been so good all year, and were able to capitalise on sloppiness and perhaps some complacency from Birmingham, and it was Loughborough finished the quarter on top, carrying momentum into the second quarter. The score line read 14-11 and it seemed as if the Birmingham girls could scarcely believe it.
The next quarter saw Birmingham really kick into gear. As the quarter got underway it was a much sloppier affair. There’s no other way about it – both sides appeared to realise how on a knife’s edge this game was perched, which lead to an influx of nerves and poor handling from both. Birmingham, however, are not a side to let nerves affect them, and they pulled away with a period of incredibly strong play around the net, leading them to round out the half 27-20 up.
The first half was strong for Birmingham, if marred by some inconsistency, but in the third quarter Birmingham stamped out any Loughborough hopes, effectively putting the game beyond the visitors. The visitors were helpless to resist the clinical play in both attack and defence from the Lions. That said, there was clearly not much between the two sides, luck was on Birmingham’s side however, playing well to the large home crowd which had amassed in the stands. The quarter ended with Birmingham 15 points up, and that is predominantly due to the rapid improvement from the Brum defence in the third quarter compared to the first half. They were 43-28 superior with 15 minutes to play.
Birmingham are once again pegging Loughborough back well in their own half
For the final quarter, Loughborough needed a point a minute against Birmingham without reply, a tall order, and not a feat which could be achieved at the Munrow. Birmingham sensed victory, and furthered their lead still. Loughborough clearly knew they were beaten, there was no chance of a late comeback when Birmingham was firing on all cylinders and were out for blood. The final score was, deservedly, 60-33 to the University of Birmingham Netball 2nd VII.
A cup final place assured, a commanding victory, nearly doubling the score tally, over a strong side – it had been a very successful afternoon for Birmingham, and they have now set up what is sure to be a tight cup final against Worcester 2s, a side with a similar 100% league record this year, but are in the Midlands 3A division (Birmingham in 2A), so Brum will be wary of the threat they pose. If Birmingham can stamp out the inconsistency and strengthen up their defensive play from the outset I have no doubt that they will be cup champions next week.