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Thunder remain unbeaten

One match that everyone had their eye on from Round 5 was the match up between the two unbeaten sides, Hertfordshire Mavericks and Manchester Thunder.

Thunder are now the only unbeaten side in the Vitality Netball Superleague so far as they overcame Mavericks 48-57.

Read on for the Thunder match report:

Manchester Thunder beat Hertfordshire Mavericks to keep their unbeaten record in the Vitality Netball Superleague intact.

It was a gritty performance against a stubborn Mavericks side, who were the better team for the opening quarter, but were ultimately over-run by a dogged and clinical Thunder.

Mavericks found themselves in a seven-goal lead in the first half, but Thunder kept the belief and it felt inevitable that as soon as they clawed themselves in front, they would not relinquish the lead.

This never-say-die attitude is something captain Sara Bayman says sets her side apart from the rest.

The England star said: “They started well but we made unforced errors in that first quarter.

“The most pleasing thing is that we never deviated from the game-plan we continued to try and do what we set out to, but do it better.

“That was the difference. When you’re seven or eight goals down, what’s the worst that can happen? It already has. That’s our mentality – let’s go out and play.

“No one believed we were going to lose it. There was still a composure about us and we were willing to put in three good quarters to make sure we did. Our response was too strong for what they had out there and they knew we wouldn’t lay down and die.”

Thunder completed the regular season unbeaten last year, only to fall at the semi-final stage to tonight’s opponent, and Bayman is convinced that experience will benefit the Black and Yellows this time around.

“We have to enjoy being undefeated. As soon as you play well, there’s a target on your back. Teams do up their game when they play us,” she claims, “and it’s almost a compliment as everyone hates winners – think about Manchester United in the 90s, everyone wanted to beat them. We just need to make sure we step up for the next match,” added the 31-year-old.

Thunder were slow out of the blocks and coupled with Mavericks’ powerful early waves of attack, the visiting side were left flapping at thin air as the Purple and Blacks’ game plan worked like a dream. Their attacks were fluid and controlled and their defensive unit – lead by Leila Guscoth – stifled an uncharacteristically quiet Thunder frontline.

Following an error-strewn opening period, skipper Bayman admitted that her side were forced to ‘start again’ at the start of the second quarter. A relatively ineffective Ellie Cardwell was brought off and Natalie Haythornthwaite came on at goal attack, with Helen Housby switching to goal shooter.

Coach Dan Ryan’s sole change in this match turned out to be a pivotal one, with young England shooter Haythornthwaite bringing variety and speed to Thunder’s attack.

She continued her burgeoning relationship with Helen Housby, seamlessly latching on to some rocket feeds from Bayman and Liana Leota.

The New Zealand wing attack really showed her credentials in the second half, flashing audacious passes in the blink of an eye to her shooters and carving up the Mavericks defence with textbook footwork and movement.

It was a game of high intensity throughout, with long periods of the match going goalless with a number of mini duels taking place in the mid -court, namely between Sam May and Leota.

Keeper Mally Kelly put in another strong performance and was assisted by Laura Malcolm and Jodie Gibson, who both popped up with timely interceptions.

Thunder are clearly now the team to beat.

On Monday they face a wounded Surrey Storm, who were beaten by a single goal in their Saturday match.

And the defending champions will be baying for their rival’s blood in front of the Sky Sports cameras, desperate to a second defeat on the bounce.

Thunder starting 7: GK Kelly, GD Gibson, WD Malcolm, C Bayman, WA Leota, GA Housby, GS Cardwell

Manchester Thunder team huddle before the game

Thunder announce themselves as contenders

Away winners Manchester Thunder are now topping the Vitality Netball Superleague table after their win at Team Bath. Their post-match summary is below:

Manchester Thunder blew away early title favourites Team Bath, to announce themselves as serious contenders for the Vitality Netball Superleague.

The Black and Yellows ran out convincing 37-62 winners against an off-colour Bath. It was Thunder’s biggest win of the season so far, where they dominated across all areas of the court, from the very first whistle. Coach Dan Ryan was predictably delighted with his side’s showing against a team filled with international players. But he was keen to keep the win in perspective, especially with the next game coming so swiftly on Monday against Loughborough Lightning.

Reflecting on the performance after the match, Ryan said: “I don’t think many people would have predicted that scoreline. But the girls stuck really well to task tonight and their application was sensational. I’m really pleased by the level of performance from everyone that took to the court for us.”

Ryan selected Helen Housby (43/47 at 91%) as his player of the match, with the young England shooter part of a formidable attacking trio alongside Liana Leota and Natalie Haythornthwaite. “They stepped up to the level of intensity today against a quality side who are among the favourites to win the title, with an impressive backline, who are world-class, those three seemed to rise to the occasion,” he added.

But Ryan believes it was in defence where the game was really won, with Jamaican defender Malysha Kelly, who was the at the heart of a superb defence that restricted Bath to just 37 goals (including just six in the final quarter) in a physical and testing game.

He said of the Sunshine Girl: “Malysha was tenacious and feisty and she was a great anchor for us at the back. She might be shy and reserved but on court she’s an absolute competitor and it’s great to see that fire form her.”

Thunder rocketed into a five-goal lead from the outset, offering Bath very little opportunity to get on the scoreboard for the opening exchanges. And never looked like relinquishing their lead. They relentlessly pressed the Somerset-based side, who appeared shell-shocked by Thunder’s intensity and blistering pace.

The first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game, with Thunder audacious, sassy and inventive in attack and gritty, athletic and intelligent in defence. Coupled with solid support form the centre court, Thunder had Bath chasing shadows for large periods of the contest.

It was a bruising encounter throughout, but Thunder stood up to Bath’s physicality and refused to stray off task. Apart from a small period in the third quarter, Thunder outscored – and out-thought – their opponents. Bath’s uncharacteristic error-ridden display should not take away from Thunder’s ability to pick-off such a strong team at will.

Starting 7:
GK Kelly,
GD Gibson,
WD Malcolm,
C Bayman,
WA Leota,
GA Haythornthwaite,
GS Housby
Quarter score breakdown:
Q1 – 11-19
Q2 – 20-32
Q3- 31-44
Q4 – 37-62