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Thunder beat defending champions

Manchester Thunder stormed to victory over defending champions Wasps at the Manchester Arena.

Thunder took the 53-42 victory after an energy-sapping four quarters of intense netball to inflict a second defeat in a row on Wasps.

The Black and Yellows were strong across court, but Malawian shooter Joyce Mvula was particularly impressive, and was deservedly named player of the match.

Head coach Karen Greig believes Thunder’s confident start set the tone for her side’s performance today.

“We started well and went ahead but didn’t quite turn the screw,” she said.

“We were giving them too much space so I gave them a good talking to at quarter-time.

“All over the court we tightened things up and started taking our chances in attack, and they just couldn’t live with us.”

Greig was particularly impressed with Thunder’s ability to halt Wasps’ momentum in the second half, when the victors managed to cut Thunder’s lead from 12 to five by three-quarter-time.

She said: “We had a period of time where we didn’t play to our strengths and we weren’t giving Joyce the ball.

“We lost a few balls but we then sorted that out in the fourth quarter.”

Grieg believes Mvula’s form post-Commonwealth Games makes her one of the best shooters in the league.

“I don’t think there is a goal keeper in the league that can challenge Joyce,” she added.

“She has everything in her game. She can jump, she can move and when she’s on her game she is unstoppable.”

Thunder started with confidence and the game played out at a high tempo from the outset.

The hosts lead for the majority of the opening period, but Wasps finished it the brightest, edging a two-goal lead.

But Thunder played like wounded beasts in the second quarter, swinging the score by seven goals and steam-rolling their opponents with quick-fire passes, skill and speed through court.

They hustled and marked tight, and Amy Carter, who replaced Bea Skingsley at wing defence, quickly became a vital link between the defence and attacking ends.

Liana Leota was showing all of her experience and class with a typically flair-heavy performance at wing attack and Joyce Mvula was strong and bold, holding off her defenders and slotting in shot after shot.

Her shooting partner Kathryn Turner played her part with some signature long-shots, while that confidence in attack, bolstered by an imperious Caroline O’Hanlon at centre, filtered through to the defence.

Kerry Almond produced a number of tips and Emma Dovey’s presence was certainly noticed by Wasps, who just couldn’t shrug her off.

Wasps battled hard in the third period after Tamsin Greenway rang the changes, switching up her side in the hope of clawing back Thunder’s healthy lead.

The new combinations were effective to a point as Wasps closed the gap to five goals, but Thunder were in no mood to let their rivals steal victory away from them in front of a partisan Netball Manchester Live crowd.

It was  physical and feisty game, an atmosphere Thunder thrive on and a frustrated Wasps were left with nothing to take back home to Coventry but the fact they had played a huge part in a pulsating game of netball.

Wasps starting 7: GK Reid, GD Williams, WD Flanagan, C Clarke, WA Haythornthwaite, GA Dunn, GS Fisher

Thunder starting 7: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C O’Hanlon, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula