Manchester Thunder produced a stunning performance to see-off Wasps 58-52 in Coventry.
It had been a battle to even make the game for the Black and Yellows after the team coach was stuck on a shut M6 for five hours.
But following a delayed start, they showed no ill-effects as they matched Wasps for intensity and desire.
What unfolded was a pulsating game, with Thunder’s persistent pressure paying off in a classy second half-performance, which saw them overhaul the early-season favourites with some style.
Coach Karen Greig, who had labelled her side ‘underdogs’ before the game, was delighted her players had managed to ‘click’ at the right time and see-off a very strong Wasps team littered with international talent, in front of a partisan crowd.
She said: “For the most part we put out a great performance across all four quarters. That has been coming in other games, but we did it tonight.
“The more pressure we put on them, the more confident we got to play our own game.
“We protected each other and then we were able to turn the screw at the end.”
Addressing an impressive fourth quarter, Greig says it was her squad’s belief in themselves that enabled them to ‘have Wasps on the rack’.
“At the end of the third quarter when we were level I said that we have this and all we needed to do is squeeze the life out of them,” she added.
“I asked the players to challenge for every ball and the girls did that.
“This win says a lot about what we can do this season. We have a young inexperienced squad and I don’t think we get enough credit for what we do out there.”
It was a fascinating first half, with neither side wanting to make a mistake to gift their opposition any kind of advantage.
Despite Wasps sneaking into a two-goal lead after converting an early intercept, Thunder kept plugging away and patiently waited for their chance to get things back on centre.
They needed the first few moments of the second quarter to do just that, following a superb flying intercept from Bea Skingsley, who was again playing a blinder at wing defence.
Wasps’ defence was making Thunder work for every pass but the Black and Yellows took their time to move the ball through to their shooters, with Joyce Mvula calm and composed in the circle taking care fo the rest.
A late surge in the second period from Wasps caught Thunder off guard and the hosts went into the break 32-27 to the good.
The second half was breathless, with Wasps storming into a six-goal lead at one point but Thunder refused to surrender and kept their momentum buzzing, taking the sting out of Wasps.
Thunder saved their best netball of the season for the final quarter of this game with a blistering sequence of play that simply blew Wasps away.
Thunder’s relentless defensive pressure – led by a brilliant Emma Dovey – finally got to Wasps and frustration – and mistakes – started to creep into the home side’s play.
Incredibly, it took Thunder before just before the final break of the game to take the lead for the first time, and once they got there, they were in no mood to relinquish it.
Wasps head coach Tamsin Greenway made a number of changes in the second half in a bid to combat Thunder’s momentum, but the Black and Yellows were too strong.
The fourth quarter was great viewing for any netball purist. It had everything.
But the difference was Thunder’s across-court form in that final quarter.
At one end there was Kathryn Turner nailing a series of ridiculous long shots (she only missed one attempt all game) and the defence had virtually shut-out Wasps’ attack.
Turner was supported superbly by Malawian Mvula, who once again stayed impeccably calm under constant pressure from Wasps keeper Josie Huckle.
It was a solid performance from the Black and Yellows and they are far from the finished package, but this result surely sends out a message to their rivals that they are genuine play-off contenders.
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