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Round 17: Pulse come out on top against Lightning

Image Credit: Tara St. Clair

London Pulse took the battle for a home semi-final down to the wire with a thrilling 61-59 win over Loughborough Lightning.

It means just goal difference separates the two sides heading into the final weekend, where they will battle it out for second spot.

Friday night also saw Manchester Thunder seal top spot with a comfortable 72-53 win over Strathclyde Sirens, while their semi-final opponents Severn Stars got past Team Bath 72-57.

Elsewhere, Leeds Rhinos continued their push for a top-half finish with victory over Cardiff Dragons whilst Saracens Mavericks leapfrogged opponents Surrey Storm with a 71-54 win at Hertfordshire Sports Village.

Pulse come from behind to beat Lightning

London Pulse fought back from a slow start to defeat defending champions Loughborough Lightning 61-59 at the Sir David Wallace Arena.

Pulse’s pre-match preparation was hindered by bad traffic on their way up from the capital, and that appeared to carry over into the first quarter as Lightning stormed into a 21-14 lead.

But last year’s runners-up clawed their way back into the contest, restricting Lightning to just 11 goals in the next two quarters to take control of the match.

Lightning pushed for a way back into the game late on but Pulse ultimately had enough to see out an important three points, and seal a double over Lightning.

Pulse’s defensive trio of Halimat Adio, Funmi Fadoju and Zara Everitt were key in cutting off the Lightning attack, restricting ball to Mary Cholhok.

But gains came from all over the court, with Olivia Tchine, Nichole Taljaard and Izzi Phillips all registering.

Taljaard shone in possession too at goal attack, combining well with Tchine in the circle as Pulse demonstrated their depth in the absence of Berri Neil and Alicia Scholes.

Sam Bird’s side now know a home semi-final is still within their reach if they can beat Saracens Mavericks next weekend and Lightning slip up against Severn Stars.

Thunder seal place at summit

Manchester Thunder ensured they would finish the regular season top of the pile with a 72-53 win over Strathclyde Sirens.

Victory cemented a crucial home semi-final later this month and put them too far ahead to catch in the overall standings with just one round remaining.

However, Thunder did not run away with the lead from the start in Scotland, with a even-matched first quarter putting both teams at 13 goals apiece.

The Sirens defence put in a brilliant shift to silence their visitors in the early stages, leading the statistics in deflections, intercepts and pick ups throughout the game.

But the strength of the table toppers was too much to stop and Thunder gave themselves a four-goal advantage at the break.

Karen Greig’s side pushed on from there and extended their lead to a 19-goal victory to confirm their position in the regular season.

Stars sign off in style

Severn Stars fought back to win their final game at the University of Worcester Arena, as they beat Team Bath 72-57.

Bath started the brightest and took a 19-13 lead after the first quarter, before Stars roared back with 23 goals in the second to take a 36-31 advantage into the break.

They maintained their dominance in the second half, keeping Bath to 12 goals in both quarters to see out a comfortable victory.

Betsy Creak top-scored for Stars with 42 goals on an emotional evening for the hosts, as they played in front of their fans for the final time.

Rebekah Airey and Jasmine Brown also impressed in defence with four gains each as Stars warmed up for their first-ever semi-final match in a fortnight’s time, where they will face Manchester Thunder.

Rhinos get past Dragons

Leeds Rhinos continued their push for fifth place with a 51-43 win over Cardiff Dragons.

After defeat at Severn Stars last time out diminished any hopes of a top four finish, Rhinos returned to winning ways in Cardiff and sealed their fourth win in five games to maintain their strong finish to the season.

The opening quarter left little to choose between the sides before Rhinos pushed out in front, taking the second quarter 16-8 to grasp control.

Dragons fought back and edged the third but Rhinos wrested back the momentum and pushed out their margin of victory in the final 15 minutes.

Joyce Mvula was once again the lynchpin for Rhinos, putting up 34 goals at 94% while Zoe Davies and Geva Mentor continued their strong connection in the other circle.

Dragons showed plenty of endeavour with Jacqui Newton leading with five deflections, with four for Leah Middleton, while Middleton and Nia Jones both earned three gains, but it was not enough to stop defeat.

Mavericks surge past Storm

Saracens Mavericks catapulted themselves to sixth in the table with a 71-54 victory over Surrey Storm.

In what was a stunning fourth quarter of dominant netball, the hosts stormed ahead to clinch victory despite comebacks from Storm in the first and third quarter.

Mavericks surged into the lead early on but were immediately reigned in by Storm. Centre Ellie Rattu soon took control, churning out turnover after turnovers as Mavericks once again accelerated ahead to an eight goal lead at the half.

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis was on top form for Storm and dominated in the centre and shooting third, attacking with 100 per cent shooting accuracy.

With it looking like the home side had runaway, Storm once again rallied back to a three-goal deficit in the third quarter.

But they were unable to make a sufficient dent and Camilla Buchanan’s side pushed ahead once more to take the victory in an emphatic fourth quarter of netball.

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