Manchester Thunder ground out a win over Team Northumbria in an eventful encounter in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
It was a physical, scrappy game which saw several players warned by the umpires for their discipline and Northumbria’s Jaydene Robinson was sent off in the final quarter.
The first half was a relatively even contest but Thunder always threatened to take the game away from the hosts after the break and a fractured final period worked in the Black and Yellows’ favour.
The victory takes them to fifth in the table, teetering below the play-off places, level on points with Team Bath.
Head coach Karen Greig was delighted with her team’s grit, and determination to take their first away win of the season.
She said: “At times it was scrappy but when we stuck to the gameplan, we played some really good netball.
“We maintained composure at times when we could have lost it and It was good to see the girls dig in deep when Northumbria started pegging us back.
“Our changes had an impact – we brought on Sophie Morgan at half time to inject some pace as they held us up really well in the first half.
“We were solid and for the majority of the game we looked after each other.”
It was an even opening quarter with the scores locked at 14-all going into the second period.
Thunder had managed to squeeze the advantage several times but failed to push on.
There were moments of brilliance though, which boded well for the rest of the game.
A rapid Beccy Hoult combined well with Gabby Marshall, who produced a stunning lofted pass to Joyce Mvula at one point, a skill reminiscent of her idol and former Thunder centre Sara Bayman.
Mvula was finding space hard to come by in the circle as she was double-marked but that resulted in Kathryn Turner freer to take the feed.
In defence a returning Kerry Almond produced a number of her signature intercepts and her partner Emma Dovey ghosted in out of nowhere for another.
The pair were again supported superbly by Bea Skingsley whose versatility, composure and work rate won her Player of the Match for the second game running.
Thunder were forced into patient build-up play in a topsy turvy second quarter, which and although they showed glimpses of getting some momentum going, they couldn’t sustain it.
With two minutes to play before half time, Thunder started to find some joy in a congested centre court and forced a four-goal cushion as Northumbria grew frustrated.
A relentless passage of play gave Thunder a deserved five-goal lead at the break following a feisty half which saw a number of players warned for their conduct by the umpires.
Thunder scored three in succession to kick off the second half, but Northumbria still had plenty of fight left in them and clawed themselves back into the contest.
A period of scrappy– and physical play – prompted a bizarre move from umpire Gary Burgess.
He called the captains together to have a word, before they then gathered their whole on-court team into a huddle to relay the official’s message.
It seemed to spark Thunder into life as they raced into a ten-goal lead, as Northumbria’s jets started to cool.
Northumbria set their stall out in the final quarter with the first two goals but Thunder were in no mood to buy anything as they picked their opposition’s pocket to produce a succession of slick passing sequences, with the fresh legs of Dani Bloomfield – on at wing defence (Skingsley switched to keeper) – the catalyst.
But Northumbria refused to give up and again closed the gap to four, which had crept up to 11.
But once again, the ever-reliable Marshall stepped up with a timely intercept and Thunder scored four on the bounce to give themselves much-needed breathing room.
The game’s most dramatic moments came with less than five minutes to go as Burgess had seen enough and sent Robinson off for a two-minute penalty.
It effectively killed the game off and Thunder comfortably saw out the game to take their third win on the trot, 49-61.
Up next is league newcomers Wasps on Friday, who currently sit second in the league.
For more Manchester Thunder news, head to their official website.