Rachael Bland ramped up the rivalry ahead of tonight’s big WBBL Cup semi-final when she insisted Newcastle Eagles have unfinished business with Leicester Riders.
The winners of a mouthwatering one-off tie at the Vertu Motors Arena will take on London Lions in next month’s showpiece final — televised live on Sky Sports.
And Bland admitted Newcastle’s players are still smarting at October’s eight-point loss against Leicester after the Eagles threw away a 28-16 first half lead.
“That game was there for the taking and we let it slip through our fingers,” admitted Bland.
“It left a bitter taste in our mouths at the time and if I’m honest it’s still something that annoys me now.
“We’d done the hard work but we had a few lapses and let the Riders back in.
“I know we have the firepower to beat a team like Leicester on the night and we defeated them in pre-season.
“With the calibre of players we have we should be performing better week in, week out and we know it.
“This weekend is a great chance to show what we’re about and of course there’s a little bit of unfinished business.”
Newcastle have moved on from last weekend’s 55-point defeat at the hand of star-studded London.
But Bland was in no mood to dismiss a heavy defeat against the title favourites as inevitable.
“Of course they’re a really good team and they were favourites to win last weekend,” she added.
“But I was still disappointed with the way we played. We should be closer to them and we came away from the game with a lot of lessons to learn.
“That’s why everyone wants to make the WBBL Cup final.
“It’s another chance to play the best team in the country and to prove that we can close the gap.
“Believe me, the next time we play London we will give a better account of ourselves. It will be a better game and a better performance.”
For now Bland is fully focused on tonight’s revenge mission with Newcastle expected to recall on-court general Maddy McVicar for the biggest fixture of the season so far.
“It could be a great game,” she added.
“October’s result apart we enjoy playing against Leicester and we match up well with them.
“They’re always very well coached and you can’t ignore the calibre of their players.
“It will be a tough battle but I love playing in those games where there’s a lot on the line and it’s all or nothing.
“Both teams are more than capable of putting on a spectacle and I’m expecting it to go down to the wire.
“There’s a big prize at stake and we have to get the job done.”
Prior to defeat against the Lions, Chris Bunten’s side had started to show flashes of the form that carried Newcastle to the 2021 WBBL Playoff final.
A positive week of practice has allowed the Eagles’ head coach to hit the reset button and focus on delivering another improved performance.
But much will depend on McVicar’s availability and how many minutes the influential American can contribute against the dangerous Riders.
Tonight’s clash tips off at 7pm with tickets available from the box office in advance and on the door.