Manchester Thunder recorded a professional – if not vintage – win over Surrey Storm at Belle Vue.
The Black and Yellows were not at their best but a second half surge helped them build a six-goal lead in the third quarter and Storm were unable to pull it back.
Storm’s stubborn and confident performance does not reflect their position in the table, and Thunder had to dig deep to see out the win.
Captain Emma Dovey, who was named Player of the Match, said her side needed to ‘blow off the cobwebs’ following a five-week break for the Commonwealth Games.
“We have been training and had the MGT tournament last week but it’s good to come out with the win,” she said.
“We tried a few combinations tonight and it’s good to be able to do that in a top quality game.
“In the first quarter we said we struggled after getting within one and then key moments we didn’t take, in the second quarter we struggled to consolidate turnovers. After that we did and in the third quarter we pushed on.”
It was a scrappy start to the game, with neither team really taking the initiative.
Storm grew in confidence as the quarter progressed, as unforced errors started to creep into Thunder’s game.
The sides traded the lead, but it was Storm who finished the period in control, edging into a mini lead, 14-17.
Coach Karen Greig will have told her players to get more organised and tighten up their passes heading into the second quarter, with the Black and Yellows seemingly suffering a worse Commonwealth Games hangover than their visitors.
Storm’s confidence continued into the second quarter but Thunder, who had been threatening to wrestle control in the opening exchanges, found some fluidity to their game as the period progressed.
A long, looping pass from Liana Leota found an out-stretched Joyce Mvula and she turned and sunk a tidy shot. It should have been the final move of the half, but some cute play from Storm ensured there was just a turnover in it at the break (33-31).
A resilient Storm kept Thunder from breaking away in the third, but the home side found their groove after near-on 40 minutes of tit-for-tat netball to force a six-goal lead and Storm started to lose their shape.
Great pressure in defence from Thunder frustrated Storm and Dovey, who produced a number of intercepts at key moments, came flying in to get the steal with the visitors threatening to come back into the game.
Ultimately, Thunder had too much for Storm, but they’ll want to improve their turnover-to-goal-ratio if they want to win away at title favourites Wasps next week.
Coach Karen Greig said: “We needed to start this second phase with a win and we got there in the end.
“We had opportunities to push on but didn’t quite get there.”
Caroline O’Hanlon said:
“Bit of a blur, but good to get a win under the belt in the first game back.
“After such a long layoff is going to be difficult for all teams.
“There was some really good patches plenty of things to work on, we made a lot more mistakes than we would like but some really good things so that’s a positive.
“We took the win and we’re looking forward to the next game.”