Wasps Netball beat Loughborough Lightning 55-51 at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday evening to secure back-to-back titles.
In a repeat of last season’s Grand Final, there was a case of déjà vu with the same scoreline and the same outcome.
Tamsin Greenway’s side were made to work incredibly hard to be crowned champions as they faced an in-form and determined Lightning team on a 12-game unbeaten run.
It was last season’s runners-up who flew out the traps with Peace Proscovia scoring twice before Rachel Dunn got the defending champions off the mark.
Shamera Sterling displayed her athleticism and defensive prowess early on flying in for an intercept but her side were unable to capitalise.
A contact call against Sam May allowed Ella Clark to put Lightning 5-3 up but Natalie Haythornthwaite scored her first of the game to pull Wasps back within one.
Anna Carter’s side extended their lead to three goals after contact was called against Haythornthwaite and Proscovia made no mistake from close in.
Dunn, playing in her 10th Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final, got into her groove and cut her side’s deficit to just one with two quick-fire goals.
And there was nothing to separate the two sides at the end of the first quarter with the scores tied at 12-all.
It went goal-for-goal in the opening stages of the second quarter with the crowd treated to dogged defending, fantastic feeds and sharp shooting.
Anything Clark and Proscovia could do, Dunn and Haythornthwaite would match at the other end.
Sophia Candappa was working her magic in the mid-court for Wasps, picking out the shooters under the post time and time again.
A rare missed effort from Dunn though was pounced upon by Lightning, who slickly transitioned the ball through court with the move finished off by Uganda international Proscovia to give her side a 21-19 lead.
Wasps fought back instantly and took the game by the scruff of the neck, exuding class and tenacity as they drew back on level terms before stretching ahead to 26-22.
Lightning were unfazed with Clark and then Proscovia, after a trademark Sterling intercept, bringing it back to a two-goal game.
Momentum was with Wasps at the end of the first half and they took a slender lead – 28-24 – into the break.
With a steely grit and their eyes firmly fixed on the Vitality Netball Superleague trophy, the defending champions made their mark at the start of the second half.
Leading by example, Wasps captain Hannah Knights read the game perfectly to thwart a Lightning attack and the turnover was converted, before Dunn nailed another shot to hand her team a six-goal advantage.
It was a fiery and physical affair out on court with mid-air collisions and contact calls galore!
Slick link-up play between Hannah Joseph, Clark and Proscovia saw Lightning claw back the deficit to just four goals and they continued to chase down their opponents with Clark holding her nerve to cut the gap further.
With just three goals separating the two teams at the end of the third quarter (43-40 to Wasps), it was anyone’s game heading into the final 15 minutes.
Lightning kept Wasps at bay initially as they battled back to trail by just one and then got on level terms at 44-all.
After going goal-for-goal for a period of play, May picked off a lofted feed into Proscovia and Wasps seized the opportunity to stretch ahead to 48-46 before extending their advantage to four after held ball was called against Lightning.
Carter’s side were still in the hunt though with two unanswered goals from Proscovia bring them back to within two at 51-49.
The Wasps defence remained resolute with top work from May and Knights helping the table toppers see out the game.
A huge thank you to all of our fantastic players, coaches, officials, volunteers, fans and partners for another sensational season!
“It will be good to face Loughborough again, it will be a rematch of last year’s final and we know it will be a real battle.”
Table-toppers Wasps Netball go into this weekend’s Vitality Netball Superleague semi-final clash with Team Bath looking to take one step closer to retaining the Superleague trophy.
Tamsin Greenway’s side have won 16 out of their 18 league games so far this season, and go into Saturday’s clash at the University of Worcester Arena (5.45pm centre-pass) off the back of four consecutive victories, while Team Bath have lost their last three games against the top three sides.
“I don’t think we could be going into the semi-finals in any better way,” said Wasps Netball director Tamsin Greenway.
“There is the theory that if we finish top then we get an easier semi-final but I don’t think any of the teams in this year’s top four will look at each other and think ‘we want you’.
“We’ll take nothing for granted in this game, Bath are a quality side who are pretty much always in the top four. It only takes one game to turn it on its head so we have to be prepared and concentrate on our own game.”
The team will be preparing for the game over the next few days, with the winner set to face either Manchester Thunder or Loughborough Lightning at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday, July 7th.
“Experience speaks for a lot when it comes to finals and the reality is that every team is broken down in different ways. We will look at the video from Team Bath’s last outing, and depending on what we find, I will pick the team accordingly,” added Greenway.
Wasps finished the regular season three points clear of second place Manchester Thunder – an extra two wins than last season’s title-winning campaign, but Greenway is urging her players to focus on the task in hand.
“This is a complete clean slate now and the league doesn’t count for anything,” she said.
“The first job was to get into the top four but that’s gone now. I’ve been in competitions where I’ve won the league and not won the cup, and I’ve been in a situation where I’ve finished fourth in the league and won the cup so I know what the season is all about and now it is game on.
“We want as many Wasps supporters there as possible, they can really make a difference on the night, so we were adamant that we wanted to keep the game in the West Midlands to make it feel like a home game. We’ll be giving it everything on the night.”
Tickets for Wasps’ semi-final clash against Team Bath at the University of Worcester Arena on Saturday June 30th can be purchased by visiting www.eticketing.co.uk/waspsnetball