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NSL 2023 Rounds 2 & 3: Thunder streak snapped while three remain unbeaten

A bumper four days of netball brought two rounds of matches, and with it, more thrills and spills as the 2023 Netball Super League season got into its stride.

Nine matches meant there was no shortage of action to talk about in the wake of the Season Opener, as we get a better look at all 10 teams.

As unbeaten records fell and teams grabbed their first wins of the campaign, here’s what we learned from Rounds 2 and 3.

Storm hit the summit 

It has been quite the two weeks for Surrey Storm, who have somehow crammed four games into eight days to kick off their campaign.

If there was any tiredness, it does not seem to have set in as four matches have been turned into four wins by Mikki Austin’s side, rocketing them to the top of the fledgling table.

Round 2 saw Storm end reigning champions Manchester Thunder’s 23-match winning streak in style with a 56-49 victory at Surrey Sports Park, announcing themselves as potential title challengers in the process.

Proscovia Peace picked up her second Player of the Match award in a row thanks to another clinical performance in the circle that yielded 36 goals, while Layla Guscoth and Leah Middleton continued their already exciting defensive partnership.

Middleton was on form once more as Storm made it two wins in two days thanks to a 66-48 win over Leeds Rhinos.

The goal keeper was named Player of the Match thanks to her seven deflections and four turnovers in an impervious performance.

Defence reigns supreme as Pulse and Lightning march on 

While Storm might sit pretty at the top for now, hot on their heels are London Pulse and Loughborough Lightning, who both picked up two wins over the weekend to maintain their 100% starts to the season.

Sam Bird’s side scored over 70 for the first time in their history on the first Friday Night Netball of the season, as they beat Team Bath Netball 72-42 at the Copper Box Arena.

But it was not all about attack, as Pulse produced a total of 21 turnovers including seven for Zara Everitt and four each for Lindsay Keable and Funmi Fadoju meaning teams will have a tough time breaking them down this term.

Pulse then followed up with another home win as they beat Severn Stars 63-50 to make it three wins from three.

They have conceded on average only 46.6 goals per game, the fewest of any side so far this season.

But that is only marginally better than Lightning, who have conceded on average 48.3 points per game as they followed up their big victory at the Season Opener with a 65-51 home win against Celtic Dragons and a 63-42 victory on the road at Strathclyde Sirens.

Fran Williams and Alice Harvey’s defensive pairing already looks to have stepped up a level this term, with Harvey producing 10 turnovers and five deflections against Dragons, as Williams was named Player of the Match.

Not to be outdone by her partner in crime, Williams then earned 11 turnovers against Sirens and was again named Player of the Match; the goal defence now sits top of the league standings for both intercepts and turnovers.

Joseph marks landmark in style 

Few players have been a more consistent presence in the Netball Super League than Hannah Joseph over the last few seasons.

Joseph notched her 150th appearance for Loughborough Lightning against Celtic Dragons, and the midcourter celebrated with a typically all-action performance.

After producing an eye-watering 31 feeds against Team Bath at the Season Opener, Joseph continued her fine form at wing attack against Dragons with another 18 passes into the circle, with Mary Cholhok and Emma Thacker the grateful recipients.

Joseph and Nat Panagarry have been the heart of Lightning’s midcourt for many seasons now, and the pair have continued their chemistry this term, with their pair notching a combined 35 feeds in their victory over Sirens, as the pair sit first and fourth respectively for feeds in the league so far this season.

Thunder’s run ends 

All good things must come to an end, and so it was for Manchester Thunder’s outstanding unbeaten record.

Thunder went the entirety of the 2022 campaign without defeat on the way to the NSL title but fell at the hands of Surrey Storm in just their second match of 2023.

A highly competitive battle saw both teams go toe to toe, but an early blitz from the hosts saw them go 6-0 up inside five minutes and that eventually proved too much for Karen Greig’s new-look side.

A tough battle ensued on court, with 139 penalties dished out across the match by umpire Gary Burgess but Storm were able to hold back the Thunder attack of Lenize Potgieter and Lois Pearson for a first win over the champions in six years.

Beard back in style 

The long weekend of action saw three teams notch their first wins, as Saracens Mavericks, Strathclyde Sirens, and Celtic Dragons all tasted victory.

Dragons opened their season with defeats against last season’s Grand Finalists Thunder and Lightning but bounced back with a 54-45 win over Team Bath on Monday night.

Star of the show was Chelsea Beard, who marked her return to Cardiff with a Player of the Match performance, as Dragons beat Bath for the first time since 2014.

Beard scored 35 of Dragons’ 54 goals, and even earned three turnovers as they put their first points on the board for the 2023 season.

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