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Pumas v Snails netball tournament.


North Bridge Leisure Centre, Sunday, 13 August 2017.

In what is hoped will be the first of many encounters, the Northowram Pumas and Sowerby Bridge Snails found themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory when they took each other on in this netball competition at North Bridge Leisure Centre. It was all for a good cause, you understand, with monies raised going towards the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund.

All smiles. Mind, this was before the contest!

Amongst both sets of ladies, there are some nifty netball players; they play in a league on a regular basis. But both the ladies’ teams were made up of non-netball players, gladly giving up their time, if not their reputations, to take part. As for the men? Many, like me, have only played once before – earlier this year, in fact, when the Pumas held an in-house boys v girls match, with the male species getting a right pasting. To give them a fighting chance, a coaching session was held two nights before, then again an hour before the main competition, with the Pumas men taking on the women under the tutelage of umpire Jess Brearley. Here, in the absence of Paul Bottomley, Glenn Ackroyd proved himself to be a mean goal shooter, whilst Peter Reason showed he wasn’t afraid to put himself about. But that was the Pumas. What about the male Snails? Clearly they were taking this event seriously, and if the rumours are to be believed, their coaching sessions lasted several weeks and many more hours. On the day, it paid off.

A bird’s eye view of the action.

Once the Pumas’ practice session had finished, it was time for the real action, the first game starting at 3.00pm on the dot. These matches consisted of two equal halves of six minutes, therefore twelve minutes of playing time. First up were the Pumas Ladies against their Snails counterparts.

In all fairness, the Pumas had more ‘natural’ netball players (four to two) than the Snails, and pretty early on it was clear that there was only going to be one winner. With Julie Bowman using her height to good effect, the Pumas ran up a three-goal lead before the Snails pulled one back before the break. In the second period, it was more of the same, and the Pumas moved into the final courtesy of a 6-2 victory.

Apparently this defensive manouevre is a legit move. But Pumas’ Julie Bowman is undeterred.

The second ‘semi-final’ was this intriguing clash of the two men’s teams; just how much had each side learnt in the time they’d had practising? It wasn’t long before the Pumas realised they were up against a mean machine, with lanky Jonathan Moon and ex-basketball star Dave Collins causing early damage. The Snails led 4-0 at the break, and went on to win the match 7-1, with Glenn Ackroyd finally getting the Pumas on the scoresheet with the outcome by then somewhat of a formality.

While the Snails Men and the Pumas Ladies readied themselves for the final, the third-place play-off match saw Pumas Men taking on the Snail Ladies. The early stages were bereft of chances, but finally the Pumas broke the deadlock and led 2-0 at half-time. In the second period, they ran up a 5-0 lead before the Snails Ladies pulled one back, but it was the Pumas who had the last word as they ran out 6-1 winners.

Pumas’ Matt Newton receives some umph from Jodie Smith.

And so to the final; Pumas Ladies v Snails Men. A mouth-watering clash if ever there was one. Could the Ladies gain the upper hand and stop the Snails in the tracks, or would the Snails continue to be as clinical as they were in the match against the Pumas Men? It was a tough call, but clearly man-for-woman the Snails had a massive advantage; height, to which they used to devastating effect. Collins got the Snails off to a great start and by half-time they had raced into a 3-0 lead. They continued in the much the same vein in the second period, and though Julie Bowman put the Pumas on the scoresheet, it was the Snails who romped to victory, the final score being 7-1 in the favour. There was no doubting it, the best side on the day had won.

Dave Collins nets the first goal in the final and the Snails are on their way.

The final hour saw a full Pumas side take on the Snails in a mixed team contest. This was divided into four quarters of fifteen minutes, with only three men allowed on each side at any one time. Substitutes were made at the end of each quarter. But the match went the way of the Snails from the outset, once Collins had scored the first goal from the edge of the area. At the end of the first quarter, the Snails led 5-1. Most of the damage was done in the second quarter as the Snails scored seemingly at will; there was no reply from the Pumas, and at half-time the Snails led 12-1.

With this simple miss, Pumas’ chances disappear in the mixed contest and player-manager Neil Coupe contemplates his future!

The Pumas made a fist of it in the third quarter, actually winning that segment 2-1, and going into the last period the deficit was now ‘just’ ten goals, 13-3. However, the last quarter was virtually one-way traffic. The slick Snails powered forward and scored at regular intervals. Pumas managed two goals but upon the final whistle, the result proved something of a white-wash; Snails 21 Pumas 5.

The umpire’s whistle signalled not only the end of the netball action, but also the stampede for the bar, where the Pumas showed a clean pair of heels to be first in the queue. In due course, once everyone had been served, the umpires Jess Brearley and Sophie Boothroyd (who had given up their time free of charge) handed out their awards. Mark Brook was given a wooden spoon as the biggest ‘Lobber’, whilst Pumas’ most impressive player was named as Peter Reason. He gleefully collected a giant bar of Cadbury’s, but this award should come as no surprise because Peter is something of a chocolate magnate. The corresponding award for the Snails went to Goal Keeper Ben Trafford. Our Jo made a short speech and revealed that £100 had been raised for the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund, so it was hats off to everyone who made it such a fun and exciting event.

We were all winners!

For prosperity, the Pumas were represented by the following;

Ladies – Jo Allen, Julie Bowman, Carolyn Brearley, Kirsty Edwards, Shana Emmerson, Tiffany Lewis, Charlotte Reason, Patricia Taylor.

Men – Glenn Ackroyd, Mark Brook, Neil Coupe, Andy Haslam, Mark Kirkby, Andrew Mellor, Johnny Meynell, Matt Newton, Peter Reason.

Amid the often exciting and clever netball on show over the course of the three hours, there was one moment which perhaps went unrecognised. Of the player thrust into a most unaccustomed forward role, yet who, despite being starved of the ball for much of the time, with his only attempt on goal nevertheless managed to score. Many would find this hard to believe, but friends, I know this is true; I was that shooter.



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