Exeter netball 1s delivered under the pressure of expectation, consistently outplaying their rivals in a highly entreating match that ended with a 52-39 victory.
This match was crucial for Exeter, as they look for promotion at the first time of asking following their relegation last season. Their opponents, Cardiff Met, were languishing near the trap door, having won only one game all season. This was against Bournemouth, who look equally likely to be relegated also.
Exeter started the first quarter on the wrong foot, letting two goals past them within the first minute or so. The first 15 minutes were very close, with both teams playing aggressively and goals being scored alternatively.
THE GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE CONTINUED
Five minutes to go until the end of the quarter and Exeter were lagging behind by two goals at 8-10. Some great teamwork from shooters Hannah Blackman and Kat Arthur saw three goals in quick succession from three attempts, putting Exeter back in the lead again.
The game of cat and mouse continued, and the quarter ended 14-13 to Exeter following a beautiful shot from Blackman seconds before the whistle.
After the restart, Exeter started to take a little more control. A near miss by Cardiff led to a fantastic steal by captain Christina Shaw which Arthur calmly converted into a goal. The team built up momentum and gradually increased their lead to 25-15 through a combination of exceptional goalkeeping from Shaw and Maisie Sharp and some sloppy passing from the Cardiff Met players.
Met continued to attack and were still occasionally making their way through the Exeter defence, but were under pressure inside the circle and failed to make as many goals as their opponents. Missed attempts were quickly being snatched up by Exeter’s goalkeeper and goal defence and second chances at goal were reduced. At half time the score rested at 30-18, with Exeter having taken a clear lead.
THE QUARTER SETTLED INTO A RHYTHM. SECOND ATTEMPTS AT GOAL BECAME RARE FOR MET WITH TRULY EXCELLENT DEFENSIVE WORK.
Into the third quarter and Cardiff Met missed yet another attempt at goal, losing the ball to Shaw. A wild leap for the ball from a Met player saw it knocked out of court and back in their possession. However once again the ball failed to find the net and was quickly carried down to the Exeter shooters where Arthur made the point successfully under pressure.
The quarter settled into a rhythm. Second attempts at goal became rare for Met with some truly excellent defensive work. With the gap continuing to widen Cardiff began to show signs of tiredness, overthrowing twice and losing possession and continuing to fail to score successfully. Exeter’s strength on the attack was apparent, and they consistently outplayed their markers, at times heading back to the centre to reset play.
With just one quarter left the score sat at 41-27 and it looked unlikely that Met could catch up with the way they had been playing. Exeter almost looked like they enjoyed the final fifteen minutes. Cardiff were still fighting but the chances of them catching up were very slim.
Some nice passing from Cardiff scored them two more goals in quick succession, but they continued to lose the ball at the net thanks to the brilliant defending of Shaw and Sharp.
Exeter meanwhile kept up the pace and continued to extend their lead. When the final whistle blew they were 13 points clear of their challengers. Exeter should be delighted with their performance and the signs are positive for them going into the final part of the season.
Exeter 1s – 52
Cardiff Met 2s – 39
BUCS Western 1A, 18 January 2017