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ROYALS RE-CREATE THEIR OWN VERSION OF THE GREAT ESCAPE

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The ENG Youth Netball Premier League finals, a pinnacle of the netball calendar, is now in its fourth season. This event showcases the league's growth and rising prominence, making it one of the No.1 events in the youth netball calendar.

 

The U15 Grand Finals, the season's climax, was a truly memorable and thrilling event. It was one of the most entertaining and incredible spectacles, captivating us with the team's unwavering commitment and the rollercoaster ride they took us on. This event will be remembered as one of our most iconic national finals ever.

 

Quarter Finals

Magic took on Leeds Athletic in one of the opening games of the quarter-finals. This appearance was long overdue for Magic after this particular side missed out on this event over previous seasons. Leeds Athletic presented Magic with a tough challenge due to their fantastic ability; with the players all U14, this team was a testament to age just being a number.

 

The game started well for both sides, but Leeds took a slight lead into the second quarter. Magic, who looked nervy in the opening quarter, came out in the second quarter firing on all cylinders, and they managed to turn around the contest and go in at halftime two points ahead.

 

Magic knew Leeds would respond, but they needed to avoid handing them the initiative after doing so well to get ahead. With two minutes gone in the third quarter, this is what happened. A few sloppy passes in the mid-court meant Leeds quickly went ahead again, this time by four points, and Magic was now chasing the game with only one-quarter to go. The final quarter saw Leeds dominate the proceedings and condemned to a 5th-8th play-off game.

 

On the opposite court, Royals took on Chester, who had been competing in this competition since it began in 2021. The game was all about the defense, with the score only being 9-5 at halftime. The second half saw the Royals pull away, get a convincing win, and land a semi-final game against Leeds Athletic.

 

Ryland faced Ribble Valley in a tricky tie for the Midlands-based team. Like Chester, Ryland has been competing in this event since it began in 2021 and hoped to end their YNPL experience with a potential Grand Finals win. Ryland started the better of both sides, the Ryland defence forcing Ribble Valley to miss some shots to give them a healthy 9-5 lead going into the second quarter.

 

A better performance from Ribble Valley in the second quarter reduced Ryland's lead to two points. Better build-up play and feeds into the circle put Ryland on their toes, and they responded well to the pressure by maintaining their centre pass at the pivotal moments in the quarter. This trend continued into the third quarter, with Ryland starting the better of the two sides, but then Ribble Valley reduced the game within two points. Ryland constantly showed strong resilience to the Ribble pressure, and they finally found some clear skies. They moved five points ahead in the fourth quarter and managed to see out what was a challenging opening game of the competition.

 

Oaksway, the champions of the north, faced Starz from the south. What was meant to be a straightforward win was anything but due to the ill-tempered nature of the game. The umpire constantly stopped the game during each quarter due to heightened emotions, and it was generally going to be a case of which the team could control their emotions the quickest. Finally, in the final quarter, Oaksway focussed on playing netball and managed to win and breathe a sigh of relief in a game that could have turned out differently.

 

Results

Royals NC (29) Vs Chester NC (15)

Leeds Athletic (34) Vs Magic NC (25)

Ryland NC (30) Vs Ribble Valley (24)

Oaksway NC (28) Vs Starz NC (18)

 

Semi-Finals

Royals against Leeds was going to be an intriguing battle, and it started pretty cagey, with both teams failing to score within the first couple of minutes. Once the goals began to go in, Leeds responded well to the Royals' first goals and went ahead before Royals' quickly responded by going ahead minutes later. At the buzzer, Royals moved down the court rapidly to score to go one point ahead going into the second quarter.

 

The second quarter saw both teams go goal for goal throughout, with both defences working extremely hard to restrict the service to the shooters. The breakthrough came with about a minute to go when the Royals finally capitalised on a rare Leeds missed shot and they went ahead by two points. They then made it three at the buzzer to make it 15-12 at halftime.

 

Leeds started the third quarter by reducing the deficit to two points, and then the game went into a war of who didn't want to score. For the next two minutes, both sides turned the ball over multiple times but then either produced misplaced passes or missed shots. Leeds finally settled down and brought the game back level. Royals were struggling in this quarter and had failed to score in over six minutes of play; Leeds saw an opportunity to take advantage of this and, as the quarter ended, found themselves four points up and looking the more likely to progress to the final.

 

Royals started the final quarter with a quick goal, but then the game returned to the dominance of both defences as both attacks struggled to find consistency in their play. With three minutes to go and four points down, Royals needed to find some inspiration, and thankfully for them, it came from their goal defense, who managed to read a Leeds pass to set the Royals off on an incredible comeback. From the interception, Royals scored, and this was the catalyst for the change in the game, with another goal being scored off their centre pass to bring the game to within one point. Leeds, off their centre pass, sent a long pass to their shooter that hit the netball post, and the Royals made no mistake in scoring again and then going a point ahead after they took their centre pass. With thirty seconds to go, Leeds had a chance to level the game, and they frantically moved up the court to grab the equaliser. With five seconds left, the Leeds shooter had the opportunity to level the tie. The Royals defender cleverly stood back and allowed the shot due to the distance it was from the post, and the ball hit the back of the rim, which capped off an incredible comeback, and Royals were in the final.

 

Oaksway or Ryland would join Royals in the final, and the game lived up to expectations. Until halftime, the game was level, and it was all about which team would take the initiative or which coach would make the correct changes.

 

Midway through the third quarter, Oaksway finally moved ahead and quickly built a five-point lead going into the final quarter. Ryland managed to bring the game back to two points in the fourth quarter and had the chance to make it one point, but a mistake gave the incentive back to Oaksway, who from this point, didn't look back and secured their place in the final against Royals.

 

Results

Royals NC (25) Vs Leeds Athletic (24)

Oaksway NC (29) Vs Ryland NC (24)

 

5th-8th Play-Offs

Magic NC (22) Vs Chester NC (21)

Starz NC (29) Vs Ribble Valley (22)

 

3rd/4th Play-Off

Ryland had the opportunity to finish their time in the YNPL with their highest-ever placing. They took on Leeds Athletic, who maybe felt they should have been in the final after doing so well against Royals. The game was evenly matched up until the third quarter, but Leeds pulled away, and there needed to be a response from Ryland, who offered little resistance to Leeds's dominance. Ultimately, it was a superb win for Leeds, who came third overall as a U14 team.

 

Result

Leeds Athletic (31) Vs Ryland NC (20)

 

7th-8th Play-Off

Chester NC (28) Vs Ribble Valley (24)

 

5th-6th Play-Off

Magic NC (26) Vs Starz NC (23)

 

Final

Royals' solid start against Oaksway followed the trend of their previous games; they quickly went into a 7-2 lead, and it was going to be a test to see if they could stay consistent throughout each quarter. Oaksway did improve as the quarter went on, but Royals were four points ahead going into the second quarter.

 

The second quarter saw both teams go goal for goal, with both sides attacking well. Oaksway needed a turnover, and they got it in the most spectacular way. Their goal defence read a pass from Royals into the shooter and had to practically dive for the ball. Off balance and in trouble of going out of bounds, she managed to still pass the ball before falling out of the court. This led to Oaksway pulling the game back to a single point at halftime, and what a second half we had in store.

 

The third quarter was disastrous for Royals. Oaksway started the quarter with loads of confidence and managed to turn the ball repeatedly. Missed shots from Royals compounded their misery within the quarter to see them lead at the start to now being six points down going into the final quarter. It looked like the trophy was heading back to the North East.

 

Royals needed a positive start in the final eight minutes of the game, but the same trend from the third quarter continued with missed placed passes, giving Oaksway no reason to fear a comeback. Their inspirational wing attack Lucy Crawford was pulling the strings and everything pointed towards Oaksway becoming the first North East based team to win this event. Seven points down with five minutes to go and Royals needed something to give them hope. They scored their centre pass and they was now six points down and it was an Oaksway centre pass. The centre pass was thrown to Royals who then moved down the court rapidly to bring the game back to five points, and then scored off their centre pass to now make the differnce four points. Oaksway settled down after the Royals flurry of goals to score themsleves to make it a five point gap again, and Royals responded by scoring off their to bring it back to four points. A change of personnel in the Royals shooting circle gave them the height they desperately needed, and you could sense they were ready to capitalise on any mistake Oaksway made. Another Oaksway centre pass was wasted and Royals brought the scoreline to a three point gap and they once again scored off their centre pass to make it a two point difference. Still, Oaksway had the game in their hands, and one more point would probably win them the game. Unbelievably another centre pass play was given to Royals, and they moved through the court like a knife through butter, with Eden Brooke feeding the shooting circle like a seasoned pro. One point was the difference, and with the time ticking down, Royals had to score to level the game. Royals once again were making it look like Oaksway wasn't on the court, and they breezed through their defensive lines to level the game. After being seven points down, the game was now level, and there were only thirty seconds to go, and it was an Oaksway centre pass. Even though the last four minutes were disastrous for Oaksway, they still had the chance to win the game. With the ball in the Royals final third, a feed was all that was needed to set up the match-winning shot. Oaksway opted for a bounce pass into a space to set up the feed, and it was read by Royals, who now had the chance to win the game. They made their way up the court without too much resistance and scored the match-winning goal. The game was still not over, and they still had time to score a spectacular buzzer shot to seal the win and record the most remarkable comeback in the history of this competition.

Result

Royals NC (30) Vs Oaksway NC (28)

 

MVP: Lucy Crawford (Oaksway NC)

All-Stars: Gabby Thomas (Ryland), Minnie Miller (Magic), Isabelle Pickering (Chester), Lara Denny (Starz), Eleanor Hockney (Oaksway), Lily Boden (Royals), Flo Wilshaw (Leeds Athletic)

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