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Eleanor Cardwell reaches for the ball

Eleanor Cardwell led the attack as Manchester Thunder fought back to stay unbeaten Photo: Ben Lumley

It was a game worthy of a Grand Final and player of the match Eleanor Cardwell said it felt like one as her Manchester Thunder side fought back for a thrilling 56-50 win over London Pulse. 

Goal attack Cardwell was instrumental as Thunder mounted a stunning final-quarter comeback to overturn a five-goal deficit with 15 minutes remaining. 

The two could meet back at the Copper Box Arena on 5 June for the Grand Final with Manchester Thunder taking on Team Bath in one semi-final and Pulse up against defending champions Loughborough Lightning in the other. 

“It felt tough,” Cardwell admitted. “I think we really needed to grind out the win there. We needed to remember what we did in training, and really put it into performance in the last quarter.  

“But really, we should have done that from the very start, from the very first centre pass. 

“We’ve been in a few grand finals and that’s what it feels like. It’s always till the end. 

“Even if you are behind the whole game, it’s never lost. So, it’s great practice for hopefully what will happen in the final.” 

The win ensures Thunder will go into their final game of the regular season against second-placed Loughborough Lightning unbeaten. 

An invincible season looked unlikely with 15 minutes to go with Pulse goal defence Funmi Fadoju working tirelessly to turn intercepts into attacking moves and put her side 41-36 up. 

Cardwell added: “We’ve just been taking each game at a time. So every single week, we’ve been really training hard for that team ahead.  

“We’ve not really been really thinking about can we win each and every single game, but if it happens it happens. We’re just going to see what we can do against Loughborough and take it to them.” 

For London Pulse captain Zara Everitt, despite the narrow defeat, there was pride in knowing they had pushed Thunder as hard as any team this season. 

Pulse had led at the end of every quarter bar the final one, stretching to a six-goal lead in the third but could not withstand the fightback from the league leaders. 

Everitt said: “I’m really proud of the team. I think it’s a shame we couldn’t put out four quarters because it was really just the last five minutes that took the game from us. 

“But it was a really valuable game for us in that we were able to try out a lot of different combinations and also show that we have the strength in depth.  

“It’s tough to take a loss like that when we really could have we could have taken the win.” 

Everitt was also full of praise to the home crowd who cheered on Pulse until the end, something the wing defence hopes will be the case once again. 

She added: “It’s amazing. And we’re so excited to play here in the finals, whatever match that is in.  

“It’s a great home crowd. We think it’s the best venue in the UK and I think all the fans that came out today really helped us push through the game.” 

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Tickets for the Grand Final can be found HERE.

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