Leeds Rhinos Netball earned their fifth win of the season in a hard-fought game against Saracens Mavericks at the EIS in Sheffield.

With both Amy Braithwaite and Emma Magee ruled out through injury, Liana Leota named an unchanged squad from the one that had pushed London Pulse all the way in their last game.  Harriet Jones came back in to start at goal attack and Amelia Hall moving to wing attack.

The start of the game was an even contest with both sides exchanging goals before some errors from Leeds allowed the away side to edge ahead, a call for obstruction allowing Ine-Marie Venter to shoot for goal to make it 4-6.  Good work from Leeds forced Mavericks to play around the centre third, but despite Geva Mentor getting the intercept, Saracens quickly turned back over and Venter added another goal to put her team three goals in front.

A call for footwork against Mavericks and then contact for Jodie Gibson gave Leeds the opportunity to narrow the gap, Cassie Howard finding Harriet Jones who fed to Joyce Mvula and the shooter made no mistake with her shot to make it 8-9.

Good defence from Razia Quashie and Gibson frustrated Leeds as they tried to keep in reach of their opponents and soon they found themselves four goals behind.  Another intercept from Quashie kept the Rhinos out, but top work from the Rhinos defence saw them win the ball back, however a communication error saw it land back in the hands of Quashie.  Mentor did not give in and won the ball back and Mvula finished to bring the score to 10-14.  After Mavericks were again punished for contact Mvula scored another but Kira Rothwell rounded off the quarter with her team's 16th goal on the buzzer.

Leeds were called for a held ball at the start of the second quarter and Mavericks quickly extended their lead.  An intercept from Zoe Davies triggered a comeback for the Rhinos and back-to-back scores from Jones and Mvula closed the lead.  A long distance from shot from Jones brought the score to 19-21 and then a tip from Mentor was picked up by Cassie Howard who put in a perfectly placed ball into Mvula to see her team just one goal behind at 20-21.  Amelia Hall then fed to Mvula to level the score.

There was little to separate the teams thanks to dogged defence from both.  At 22-23 Mavericks looked like they would stretch out to a two goal lead but a missed shot from Venter was collected by Mentor and the ball was played quickly to Mvula who slotted in the goal to make it level again at 23-23.

With three minutes to go the score was level at 24-24, but momentum switched in the Rhinos' favour and two quick goals from Mvula put the Rhinos in front and then some brilliant defence Mentor got possession back for the Rhinos to see the home side go in four goals up at the break.

In the third quarter Leeds built on the foundations they had set to slowly edge their way to a ten goal lead.  Hall feeding both Mvula and Jones to make it 38-28.  A tip from Mentor which Howard collected set up Mvula to put her team 39-28 in front.  Former Leeds player and captain Vicki Oyesola then entered the court to freshen the defence for Mavericks and they began to claw their way back in.  With seven points between them as the quarter came to a close, a goal from Venter with 15 seconds left and then an intercept from Oyesola stopping the Rhinos from responding meant the teams went into the final quarter with the score at 45-39.

Mavericks had the first centre pass but were called for contact on Davies, which allowed Jones to go for goal.  Mvula and Jones both were on target with back-to-back goals to re-establish their team's 10-goal lead.  A missed shot from Rothwell and then Davies with the tip on the rebound landing to Magee looked promising but Mavericks were able to regain possession before Leeds could convert the chance and Rothwell's goal made it 52-43.

Aliyah Zaranyika got an intercept for Mavericks but Mentor won the ball back for her team and Mvula scored.  A big defensive moment from Davies helped Leeds to maintain their lead and two brilliant shots from Jones kept the scoreboard ticking for the Rhinos.  There was a grandstand finish to the game when the Rhinos regained possession and swiftly moved the ball down court to Mvula who lined up her shot with three seconds left on the clock and cooly slotted in the goal to bring the final score to 59-49.

The Rhinos play Team Bath on Friday 17th May at the Cannon Medical Arena.  Tickets available at tickets.therhinos.co.uk


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