Team Northumbria Vs Team Bath
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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

Anna Stembridge

Anna Stembridge says players will learn from loss

Team Bath Netball Head Coach Anna Stembridge says her players will learn valuable lessons from Friday’s 62-37 home defeat to Vitality Superleague rivals Manchester Thunder.

The visitors got off to a flying start and never looked back as they maintained their 100 per cent record with a convincing victory, underlining their dominance by winning the last quarter 16-8.

Stembridge said: “Credit to Thunder in terms of the way they started and finished the game. It’s disappointing that the scoreline blew out in the final quarter – to lose it 16-8 was not good enough and a bad day in the office in that respect.

“We knew tactically what Thunder would do and we looked to counter that but they executed their game plan very well.

“But we can only grow from this kind of experience. The players are really disappointed but they will learn from this and move forward.”

Both teams went into the match – played in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,600 fans – with confidence high after winning their opening two matches. However, it was the visitors who made the brighter start and they quickly raced into a 5-0 lead.

It was three minutes until Team Bath were able to produce their first attack, finished by Chelsea Lewis, and they remained on the back foot for much of the opening period.

Thunder’s high-tempo approach and slick passing, combined with the unerring shooting of England duo Helen Housby and Natalie Haythornthwaite, saw them establish a commanding 17-6 lead.

Team Bath’s best spell of the period, including a great aerial feed by Rachel Shaw, saw them pull four goals back and Lewis scored right on the buzzer to close the gap to 19-11.

The hosts needed a strong start to the second period but instead it was Thunder who turned the screw with an unanswered run of nine goals, stretching their lead to 29-12.

Lenize Potgieter came off the bench to replace Lewis at GS and quickly found her range, scoring six times as Team Bath gave the vocal home crowd something to cheer.

Asha Francis also scored on the stroke of half-time but Thunder were still firmly in the driving seat as they led 32-20.

With Liana Leota and Sara Bayman providing some outstanding feeds to the attacking duo of Housby and Haythornthwaite, Thunder were able to increase the gap to 36-21.

However, Team Bath were much improved in the third period – both in attack and defence – and were able to provide a more consistent feed to player of the match Potgieter.

The deficit was 44-31 going into the final quarter but any hopes of a Surrey Storm-style comeback were dashed as Thunder pulled away once again to win by 25 goals in a match sponsored by The Royal High School, Bath.

Carter Jonas are Team Bath Netball’s property partner, Surridge are the Team Bath kit supplier and Skins provide the team with compression wear.

Team Bath will be looking to bounce back in front of their home fans on Friday (February 19) when they entertain Team Northumbria (7.45pm).

Ticket-holders for that match will have access to an exclusive coaching masterclass from Team Bath Netball Head Coach Anna Stembridge and Director of Netball Jess Thirlby, taking place from 6-7pm.

Tickets for that game, as well as the other remaining home fixtures, are available from http://www.teambath.com/events/ticketline/ or by calling 0844 888 4412.

Match stats

Team Bath Netball

Starting seven: GS: Chelsea Lewis; GA: Asha Francis; WA: Rachel Shaw; C: Mia Ritchie; WD: Claire Brownie; GD: Karla Mostert; GK: Eboni Beckford-Chambers. Bench: Lenize Potgieter, Amanda Varey, Jo Vann, Alana John, Sarah Penny.

Changes: Q2: Lewis – GS to bench, Potgieter – bench to GS. Q4: Francis – GA to bench, Shaw – WA to GA, Vann – bench to WA, WA to C, Varey – bench to WA, Ritchie – C to bench.

Team Bath Netball Superleague squad 2016: Eboni Beckford-Chambers (C), Samantha Cook, Claire Brownie, Shaunagh Craig, Asha Francis, Nicole Humphrys, Alana John, Chelsea Lewis, Karla Mostert, Sarah Penny, Lenize Potgieter, Mia Ritchie, Rachel Shaw, Amanda Varey, Jo Vann.

Manchester Thunder

Starting seven: GS: Helen Housby; GA: Natalie Haythornthwaite; WA: Liana Leota; C: Sara Bayman; WD: Laura Malcolm; GD: Jodie Gibson; GK: Malysha Kelly. Bench: Ellie Cardwell, Amy Clinton, Emma Dovey, Gabby Marshall, Kathryn Turner.

Changes: Q4: Gibson – GD to bench, Dovey – bench to GD.

Manchester Thunder Superleague squad 2016: Kerry Anne Almond, Sara Bayman (C), Amy Clinton, Ellie Cardwell, Emma Dovey, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Rebecca Hoult, Helen Housby, Malysha Kelly, Paige Kindred, Liana Leota, Laura Malcolm, Gabriella Marshall, Kathryn Turner.

Quarter scores (Team Bath first)

Q1: 11-19. Q2: 20-32 (9-13). Q3: 31-44 (11-12). Q4: 37-62 (6-18).

Dan Ryan

Thunder predict tough away test

We’re heard from the hosts, Team Bath – it’s now time to get some insight from their opponents Manchester Thunder.

Both sides are unbeaten going into tonight’s game and it will undoubtedly be a titanic battle between two of the Vitality Netball Superleague’s giants.

Read Thunder’s preview to tonight’s clash at Team Bath:

Manchester Thunder face their toughest challenge of the season yet with an away game against early league favourites Team Bath.

Both sides are unbeaten following the first two rounds, but Bath have been ruthless, despatching defending champions Surrey Storm in their opening fixture with an inspired late comeback.

Thunder will need to be at their absolute best for all four quarter to secure victory over Bath, who are a rejuvenated side this season, following a couple of seasons off the pace, for their high standards.

Every Superleague squad was bolstered in the off-season, with Bath bringing in England star Eboni Beckford-Chambers and South Africa shooter Lenize Potgieter, who played at the World Cup last summer.

Meanwhile Thunder notched up the highest total score of the season so far with a 72-52 win over Celtic Dragons last weekend at the Thunderdome and are showing good early-season form, too, with international signings Liana Leota and Malysha Kelly both excelling.

Black and Yellows coach Dan Ryan is well aware of the threat Bath pose to his side, but he believes they will be ready to push the Somerset-based team all the way in round three.

“Dragons were a really good test leading into the Bath game, with some really world class players out there. But for us now it is about going to the next level, ” he concedes.

“Team Bath are going to be one of the teams to beat and they will be full of confidence with what they have put out there so far this season,” the coach added.

Ryan says the squad have worked on how to ‘break down’ Bath in training, ahead of the key clash on Friday.

The 31-year-old said: “We’ll look at how we think we can break them down in terms of the game-plan and also look at what we can do to get the run on them.

“We’re looking forward to the contest. You play in these types of competitions to play against the best and Bath are the benchmark so we’re looking forward to it.

Win or lose, on Friday, Thunder will have little time to reflect, with their next clash in the league against Loughborough Lightning coming pretty swiftly on Monday, February 15, which will be screened live on Sky Sports.

Team Bath v Thunder, Friday, February 12, 7.45pm at Bath University.

Hertfordshire Mavericks' Sammy Wallace shoots

Imports shining in the Superleague

We’re only just into Round 2 of this exciting new Vitality Netball Superleague season and import players are already shining through.

After the thrills and spills of Super Saturday, Yorkshire Jets and Team Bath kicked off the second round in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday evening with Bath taking home the points and an early lead in the table.

This weekend we have three gripping fixtures to serve up to you, starting tomorrow night when last season’s champions Surrey Storm host Team Northumbria at 7.30pm in a match where both teams will be looking to bounce back from first round losses.

We then move through to Saturday where the first match of the evening sees Manchester Thunder host Celtic Dragons at 5pm, and later at 6.30pm Loughborough Lightning travel to Hertfordshire Mavericks to conclude Round 2.

The opening round, plus Monday’s clash between Jets and Bath highlighted the quality of all franchise imports. Every single Vitality Player of the Match prize across these five games have gone to imports or players returning from stints in the ANZ!

Before the season even got started, everyone was talking about the busiest off-season for transfers and the anticipation definitely hasn’t turned into disappointment.

Shooter Sammy Wallace who has joined Mavericks from Trinidad and Tobago set the tone as she took the first Player of the Match of Super Saturday. In Mavericks 60-39 win over Dragons, Wallace recorded an impressive shooting accuracy of 92%.

It was our Rose Ama Agbeze who translated her international form straight into the Superleague with ease as she put in another Player of the Match performance for Lightning in their 65-34 win over Jets.

Thunder’s centre court firecracker and New Zealand international Liana Leota shone in the third game of the day as Manchester overcame Northumbria 59-37.

The final match of Super Saturday was between Team Bath and Surrey Storm and was seemingly the one the enthusiastic crowd were waiting for. In a game that saw Storm in the lead until the final quarter, South African defender Karla Mostert made the difference for Bath.

Bath were up again on Monday, and this time they travelled to Jets and beat them 58-38. England defender and Bath Captain Eboni Beckford-Chambers was the Vitality Player of the Match, bringing her ANZ and international form back to the Superleague for 2016.

Will this weekend follow the same pattern? Only time will tell – follow live updates on Twitter from us and all the teams to stay in the know!