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Chelsea Pitman

Chelsea Pitman was named Player of the Match as London Pulse beat Loughborough Lightning. Image: Ben Lumley

London Pulse ensured they will top the Netball Super League table and secured a home semi-final against Surrey Storm in the penultimate round of the regular season.

Elsewhere, there were important wins for Celtic Dragons and Leeds Rhinos, while defending champions Manchester Thunder flexed their muscles at Belle Vue to remind everyone just what they are capable of.

Here is everything you missed from Round 19:

Pulse seal home semi-final 

London Pulse sealed a third trip to the Copper Box inside a week as they sealed top spot and a home semi-final with a 61-58 victory over fellow Grand Finalists Loughborough Lightning.

The close-fought encounter could well be a dress rehearsal for the Grand Final in two weeks’ time, with a win for Lightning against Team Bath next week enough to ensure the other semi-final takes place at the David Wallace Sports Hall.

If we are to be treated to another contest between the two sides, it is sure to be one to watch as the teams played out a tightly fought encounter.

With very little to separate the sides, a crucial interception from Funmi Fadoju in the second quarter swung the game towards Pulse as they established a five-goal lead that proved enough for them to take control of the contest.

A late comeback from Lightning reduced the gap to three but it was not enough to stop Pulse sealing the win and with it a potential psychological advantage should the pair meet in the Grand Final on 11 June.

Thunder power past Mavericks 

Manchester Thunder signed off from Belle Vue for the season in style with a dominant 75-48 victory over Saracens Mavericks.

The defending champions reminded everyone of their credentials ahead of the Grand Final as they notched their second-highest goal tally of the season and passed 70 for the second time in two weeks.

Josie Huckle was named Player of the Match for a dominant defensive display alongside Emma Dovey and Ella Bowen, while Lenize Potgieter and Lois Pearson once again combined superbly in the circle.

While all eyes might be on league leaders Pulse and second-placed Lightning, Thunder look to be tuning up at just the right time as they aim to claim back-to-back NSL titles, becoming just the fourth franchise to do so.

The defeat marks a second on the spin for Camilla Buchanan’s Mavericks, who know a win would take them above Severn Stars into fifth; they now must avoid defeat away to London Pulse in order to do so.

Dragons take Celtic clash spoils 

Friday night saw Celtic Dragons earn their first win under Jill McIntosh with an impressive 50-37 win away at Strathclyde Sirens.

It was just a second win of the season for the Welsh side who will end the season bottom of the table, but victory in Glasgow showed plenty of signs of promise.

Hannah Leighton once again impressed at centre with a Player of the Match performance, while Shaquanda Greene-Noel produced a huge 14 turnovers alongside Ella Powell-Davies with seven.

Goal attack Gabby Sinclair also continued to impress at the other end, getting through a huge amount of work in and around the circle as well as sinking the odd long bomb.

Towera Vinkhumbo continued her hugely impressive season with another 15 turnovers and 10 intercepts, but it was not enough as Sirens posted their lowest score this season.

Defeat for Sirens leaves the Scots looking over their shoulder heading into the final game, with both Leeds Rhinos and Team Bath able to leapfrog them. They will hope to end the season on a high at home to Manchester Thunder next Saturday.

Two in a row for Rhinos 

Leeds Rhinos earned back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a 59-52 win away at Severn Stars.

Liana Leota’s new-look side have endured a difficult campaign but seem to be finally clicking, as they followed up victory over Team Bath with an impressive win at fifth-placed Stars.

Vicki Oyesola again impressed at goal keeper, while Elle McDonald and Nia Jones combined well with a pair of all-action displays in the mid-court.

They helped get plenty of ball to Player of the Match Ellie Bird, who scored 43 goals as Rhinos moved up to eighth and inspired plenty of optimism ahead of next season.

For Stars, a disappointing final game does not take away too much shine from what has been an impressive maiden year for new head coach Jo Trip.

The Worcester-based outfit were many people’s tips to struggle this term but have proved the doubters wrong and will seal a top-half finish if London Pulse beat Saracens Mavericks next weekend.

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