Taunton Tigers Women commenced their season with a tricky home game in the National when they entertained closest rivals, Bristol Storm at their Wellsprings lair. Both these 2 sides joined the national league together 3 seasons ago and whilst Tigers have shaded almost all of their previous encounters a really tough game was expected between these 2 sides, who finished 2nd and 3rd in Division 2 last season.
Bristol, like Tigers, had enjoyed a good pre-season and presented a stiff contest to Tigers, who were looking to reverse the result of last season when Storm knocked them out of the Trophy competition at the same stage. Storm's squad is pretty settled, and is well-known to Tigers coaching staff. They have a deep bench, having been bolstered by the arrival of a number of players with a wealth of national league experience with Cardiff Celts, who have now folded as a consequence. Tigers knew that Storm's threats could be expected from both inside and outside the 3 point line, but did not have to concern themselves with shutting out the lively Ines Alberquerque who picked up an unfortunate broken wrist in Storms final pre-season warm up game.
For their part, Tigers squad had also been deepened and strengthened with the arrival back into the fold of Laura Franklin and Emma Gough, both products of Tigers Academy set up, and were further augmented by academy starlet Lydia Shaikh who was stepping up from the Under 18 squad. The girls have trained well over the past 2 months and had a very competitive run-out in Tigers pre-season tournament, winning 5 of their 6 games against national league opposition.
Nothing could have prepared either side, or the crowd, for an extra-ordinarily low scoring first half. Although Tigers started reasonably well, an over-inflated match ball, coupled with Wellspring's newly installed unforgiving rings, contrived to make scoring an absolute lottery, and extremely difficult for either side. Scoring was limited to extremely accurate, slow paced shots, free throws, and sometimes mere flukes. That said, Tigers new half-court offence was running well at the beginning of the game, as Tigers took good options and established their one and only lead of the game as they led 4 – 1 half way through the first quarter, but lost the quarter 10 – 13. If scoring was difficult in the first quarter, it almost dried up in the second, as Tigers shaded a dismal quarter 6 – 4, but trailed 17 – 16 at the half time break.
A welcome half-time break should have spurred Tigers on to better things, however, it was Storm who came out of the blocks the strongest as the ever-dangerous Storm forwards, Ravin and Fox, took advantage of Hannah Watkin's benching through foul trouble to allow Storm to open up a 5 point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter as they led 32 – 27. Despite Emily Farthing's best efforts at the offensive end in the final quarter, Storm continued to push home their inside advantage to a 13 point lead, with 4 minutes to go, as Tigers chased the game and picked up shooting fouls, closing out an extremely low scoring game, 47 – 36.
Tigers coach Joe Mills commented,
“The result is a huge disappointment for both myself and for the girls. We are very aware that we can perform so much better than we did today and we did not do ourselves justice. It was a close, low scoring game, and despite the fact we were not all firing on all cylinders, we just couldn't convert possession into points. Full credit to Storm for their win in, what was a very even game — I will be more wary of their shooting threats next time around. It is now up to us to take on board the lessons we learned today and draw strength for the games in the season ahead of us — starting next week when we face Plymouth away in the National Cup.”