BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Activity during the Vitality Netball Superleague Super 10 at Arena Birmingham on January 5, 2019 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for England Netball)

Manchester Thunder firing on all cylinders at Celtic Dragons

It was a steady start to proceedings in Cardiff as Manchester Thunder and Celtic Dragons battled it out to break the other’s centre pass, but in the end it was Thunder who came out firmly on top to bounce back from last week’s defeat.

It took Thunder the first ten minutes of the opening quarter to find their rhythm and break the ‘to me – to you’ pattern the game had fallen into.

But as the clock ran down Thunder were able to pull away and ended the first quarter eight goals to the good thanks to the efforts of star shooters Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner.

An early lead for Thunder meant that Dragons would have to come up with a response if they were to have a chance of breaking Thunder’s early confidence and edging their way back into the game.

Dragons swapped Clare Elsley for Lucy Howells at WD and the change proved effective as Howells managed to placate some of Amy Carter and Liana Leota’s feeds to the shooters.

Thunder started the quarter as brightly as they ended the first and looked as though they were about to run away with it but Dragons chased them until the whistle.  Thunder were leading overall but only one goal had separated the two sides in the second quarter.

Kerry Almond passed a last minute fitness test to make the starting line-up but Rebekah Airey stepped in at GK with three minutes of the second quarter left on the clock.

Head Coach Karen Greig made a few changes at the start of the third quarter with Ellie Cardwell replacing Turner at GA and Caroline O’Hanlon slotting in at C as Amy Carter moved down to WD in place of Laura Malcolm.

Thunder had managed to establish a solid ten goal lead by the third quarter and were relentless in attack.  Mvula stood her ground against a physical Dee Bolakoro and Cardwell provided an effective cog in Thunder’s attacking machine.

But Thunder couldn’t quite stretch that ten goal lead and the opportunity was there to rack up the goals and put Thunder in a good position to progress as the season goes on.

By the final quarter, the goals were flying in and Thunder were firing on all cylinders.  They played with determination and purpose allowing them to showcase their quality in all areas of the court.

Turner returned to GA and demonstrated her talent for long-range shots while Mvula was impeccable under the post.  Mvula shot at an impressive 92%, enough to earn her player of the match.

The speed from O’Hanlon and her link up play with Leota in centre court left Dragons clueless at times.  Mvula was often left to her own devices in the D as the defenders were left stunned, unable to return to the circle in time to prevent the shot.

Thunder racked up a massive 25 goals in the last quarter, highlighting their dominance in attack and the success of the team overall when every player is able to show off their strengths.

Karen Greig was pleased with the team’s overall performance:

“A really good bounce back, we had a great first quarter.  We scored 25 goals in the final quarter which shows what we’ve got in our locker in terms of the changes that we can make.

Joyce was unbelievable tonight, it was a really good performance from her under pressure in the circle so it was great to give her the nod for player of the match.”

Thunder face another tough away trip in the face of Team Bath on Friday 1st March.

Starting 7s:

Thunder: Almond, Dovey, Malcolm, Carter, Leota, Turner, Mvula

Dragons: Facey, Bolakoro, Elsley, Jones, Drane, McCollin, Lewis

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Lightning vs Storm 1 web

Lightning beat defiant Storm

Loughborough Lightning finally broke their win-loss chain with a defiant 66 – 50 victory over Surrey Storm on Saturday night.

So far this season Lightning have gone through the round securing a win followed by a loss and then a win. Entering round seven with the momentum of a shock result over unbeaten Manchester Thunder last week, the new-found confidence instilled in the side carried them right through to the final whistle at Surrey Sports Park.

The match which was also broadcast live on Sky kickstarted with a Storm centre pass from which they quickly converted and opened up the scoring. A powerful pass from Joseph into Lightning’s circle went off court and Storm were quickly 2-0 up. Hardly phased by this fast opening from the home side, Lightning pushed on and after a tip from Panagarry on Storm’s centre pass, the two sides were soon level on points. The rest of the quarter continued with each side eagerly fighting for any opportunity to force error and put a stop to their opponent’s attack. Lightning finished the opening quarter just a single point behind Storm.

End of Q1: Loughborough Lightning 12- 13 Surrey Storm

An unchanged Lightning side returned for the second quarter, ready for battle and ready to push on and put more points past Storm. Despite the added pressure of the Sky cameras watching their every move, Lightning kept their calm and proceeded to execute their game plan in style. In defence, Keenan and Oyesola put each contact call to the side and continued to apply pressure to shooting powerhouse Sigi Burger and delay the ball’s entry into the circle. Meanwhile, Clark and Cholhok worked seamlessly together to open up space, keep the defence away from any incoming balls and put as many shots through the net as possible.

Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 31 – 24 Surrey Storm

Despite a huge second quarter, Lightning knew they had no time nor opportunity to rest on their laurels and take their foot off the pedal. Despite their seven-point lead Lightning now faced an increasingly physical Storm side who were eager to pull themselves back on top after a floundering second quarter. Numerous contact calls allowed Lightning the opportunity to readjust their positioning and gain composure before increasing their lead by a whopping 18 points. Not only was this in credit to Lightning’s clinical performance but for their grit and determination to turn the ball at every opportunity.

End of Q3: Loughborough Lightning 53 – 35 Surrey Storm

With a huge fifteen minutes ahead of them, Lightning made changes to their line-up bringing Coleman on in place of Clark for the GA bib.  The home side also made changes in a last-ditch attempt to close the gap and managed to take advantage of Lightning’s need to readjust to their new attacking set up. Not wanting her presence to cause an error in Lightning’s lead, Coleman treated the crowds to her impressive long bombs whilst at the other end of the court, Panagarry’s dynamic feet moved swiftly across the court to stop any advantage in Storm’s centre passes. Having closed the gap in a final surge, Lightning made more changes with Lucy Parize switching into GA, Rosie Harris coming on at WD and captain Nat Panagarry moving into the centre position. The injection of fresh energy was all Lightning needed to drive the game home and secure another resounding win.

Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 66 – 50 Surrey Storm

Growing from strength to strength in her debut season, Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok was named Player of the Match after a dominant display in the circle however it was the overall team effort that Head Coach Sara Bayman praised on the night;

“Our middle two quarters were very strong after a shaky start and a blip in the final quarter, so I think to come out with a sixteen-goal win is good and I was happy with the result. I think after last week we worked on making sure we were in control of the game, and controlling the error rate, it was positive to realise that those areas were in our control and we could easily make the changes needed in order to change the result.”

Captain Nat Panagarry shared how important it was to change the pattern of results;

“We definitely wanted back to back wins and I think you can tell from our recent games that we are building and we are improving as each week goes on, we’re a new squad and we are growing and I think we showed some good areas during the match but we still need to go back and look at the game as a whole and work on those errors for next week.”

Next week Lightning return home to face new side London Pulse in their first ever Superleague match up. Panagarry also shared the threats that the new side bring;

“They’re building as well, they’ve got some great players such as Ama Agbeze so we’ll be looking at their game, looking at videos and then using that knowledge to work on our own game plan and come out fighting next week.”

Tickets for next week’s clash are on sale. You can get your tickets here.

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Photo credit: Loughborough University