Premier League 3
As usual there were three groups each containing four teams, the top two in each after the round robin competition would head for the final three matches with the winner of each playing Premier League 3 Netball next season. Group A consisted of Dudley Leisure (8th PL3), Seatonians (North East), Dreams (South) and Poole (South West). Group B featured Riverside (9th PL3), Blackpool (North West), Billericay (East) and Charnwood (East Midlands). Group C was contested by Herts Hornets (10th PL3), Poly (London & SE), Hi-Tech (Yorks & Humberside) and Leamington (West Midlands)
The third quarter saw Seatonians battle back strongly, a run of three goals without reply saw their deficit cut to four points before Poole responded with a three goal burst of their own. After an even spell Poole pulled away as the period reached its conclusion and they led going into the last 15 minutes by 37-27. It was an even but not spectacular last quarter that saw the sides exchange nets on a regular basis. Poole at one point led by 13 points but Seatonians were never really able to make much of a dent in that lead and as the match finished Poole took it 50-40 as they along with Dudley Leisure booked their place in the finals. This meant the third round match between Seatonians and Dreams was a dead match but Dreams adapted well and ran out comfortable 45-20 winners. The battle to finish top between Dudley and Poole was a fairly low scoring affair which after a shaky start saw Poole emerge 35-29 winners to take the group with Dudley as runners up.
Group B – Billericay have form in the Playoffs. Last season they were unlucky to miss out to Sussex Thunder in a final that they lost by just 5 points. They came back more determined than ever to hoist themselves into Premier League Netball. Their first match of the weekend saw them in commanding mood against Charnwood and in a largely one sided match the Essex side ran out comfortable 64-28 winners. Not the best of starts for Charnwood. Meanwhile Prem 3 Riverside who gained promotion last season with an extra time nail biter were looking to maintain their status and faced Blackpool in the first stage of that. It was a great start for Blackpool who took an early 4-0 lead before Riverside began to edge their way into the match. Blackpool led throughout the first quarter but as the whistle blew it was only by one goal, 12-11. The second quarter was very even, played between two well matched teams who didn’t give an inch. As would be expected between sides from the North West and North East regions it was feisty and physical. Blackpool maintained their one goal lead at half time, 21-20. The third quarter started much the same until Riverside began to dominate slightly. Blackpool were hindered when their Goal Attack was injured. Although ok to continue she looked a little shaken up for a few minutes. Meanwhile Riverside clicked into gear and began to pull away, at one point opening up a seven point lead but Blackpool would not be shake off and a great end to the quarter saw them pull it back to just three points adrift, 35-32. Riverside produced some lovely play as the fourth period got underway, Blackpool missed a couple of chances and the North East side opened up that seven point cushion again. Try as they might Blackpool could only match their opponents and make small inroads which left a final score of Riverside 47 v Blackpool 42.
Round 2 saw Billericay pick up from where they left off with a resounding win over Riverside by 58-34. In doing so they booked a place in the finals with a match to spare. The two defeated sides from Round 1 faced each other and both Blackpool and Charnwood knew that defeat spelt the end of their hopes for another year. It started superbly for Blackpool as they led at the end of the first quarter by 17-11. Charnwood kept plugging away however and reduced the Blackpool lead to one point at 25-24. From there on in it was close all the way. A match that could have swung in favour of either side went to Charnwood by just two points, 50-48. Heartbreak for Blackpool who had lost their first two matches narrowly but for Charnwood their hopes were still alive. For Round 3 Billericay were up against the already eliminated Blackpool and they warmed up for the final later in the day with another big win, this time 51-30. The attention in this Group was focused on the Riverside v Charnwood game where the winners would progress to the final. It was a lively start from both sides that saw Charnwood get their noses in front before extending their lead. Riverside pulled things back but Charnwood always kept the lead and went in at the first break leading 14-10. The second quarter saw Charnwood open up a six point advantage but Riverside responded well, reducing it to three goals at one stage before some costly misses found them trailing at half time 26-20. The third quarter, a fairly low scoring affair saw Charnwood take control. They took the period 10-5 to lead by eleven points with one quarter to play. It would take a massive effort for Riverside to hold onto any hope of surviving in Prem 3 now but it just never happened. They matched Charnwood goal for goal and the spoils for the quarter were shared 11-11. A sad farewell to Riverside after one year in Prem 3 but for Charnwood memories of that first match defeat had evaporated and they now had a final to look forward to.
Group C – The first round of matches saw a local derby in effect as Herts Hornets faced Poly. The game went the way of Poly by 45-36 whilst the second match in the round saw Hi-Tech record a very impressive and comfortable win over Leamington by 71-31. With the two winners facing the two losers from Round 1 in the second phase of matches this group could be decided pretty quickly and that’s the way it panned out as Hi-Tech edged out Herts Hornets 51-43 while Leamington fell to their second high defeat of the day as Poly recorded a 59-29 win. It meant that Poly and Hi-Tech were through to the finals, the only question remaining when they face each other is who would emerge group winners and runners up. That question was answered on Day 2 with Poly edging out Hi-Tech 53-45 to take the group and have, on paper, the easier final against a runner up. Time would tell if that was the case or not. Herts Hornets ended their campaign with a morale boosting 59-16 win against the luckless but plucky Leamington.
The finals lined up with Poole vs Hi-Tech, Dudley Leisure vs Billericay and Poly vs Charnwood.
Congratulations to Billericay (46-28), Charnwood (47-38) and Poole (54-42) Netball Clubs who will be playing Premier League 3 Netball next season. Another great weekend of top Netball.