Manchester Thunder 50-49 Wasps: Hosts move clear at top of Vitality Superleague
By Paul Prenderville
Last Updated: 24/03/19 12:02am
Manchester Thunder strengthened their grip on top spot in the Vitality Superleague with a one-goal victory over champions Wasps on another thrilling evening of Vitality Superleague action.
Thunder halted Wasps' perfect start to the season with victory at the Ricoh Arena at the start of the month, and they completed a memorable double with a 50-49 win at the Thunderdome on Saturday night.
The defeat means Wasps have now lost three of their last four games and the back-to-back champions have slipped to third after Saracens Mavericks came from behind to beat Surrey Storm 58-50 in another thriller on Saturday.
A pulsating night of action also saw Loughborough Lightning extend their winning streak to six. Five days on from their last-second win over Wasps, Lightning left it late again before edging out Severn Stars 54-53.
Last week the Superleague began the second half of the season with plenty of drama and, for Round 11, all eyes were on the Thunderdome, where Thunder were relocated after a George Ezra concert took over the Manchester Arena.
And hot on the heels of Monday's thriller, Saturday's meeting of first and second did not disappoint, with the game coming down to the final seconds as Thunder held on.
Karen Greig's side had taken over at the top of the table on Monday on goal difference following Wasps' defeat and they were fastest out of the blocks. The unflappable Joyce Mvula found early rhythm to go with the usual formidable presence of Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey in the defensive end.
The hosts opened up a six-goal lead by the end of the first quarter but a brilliant fightback from Wasps, let by the excellent Rachel Dunn saw them turn a 16-10 deficit into a 28-27 half-time lead.
Dunn missed a couple of shots to start the second quarter but soon found her range, linking well with goal-attack Katie Harris to chip away at Thunder's advantage until Dunn gave them their first lead of the game on the stroke of half-time.
With the teams continuing to trade goal for goal, a decisive burst from Wasps saw them forge into a five-goal lead going into the final 15 minutes.
But, roared on by the crowd, the home side stormed back, with Kathryn Turner to the fore, and, with five minutes left to go, they hit the front and moved three clear. There was still time for another Wasps goal but they fell agonisingly short as Thunder held on for a breathtaking three points.
Vitality Netball Superleague - Round 11 Fixtures
|Friday||Team Bath||51-47||Strathclyde Sirens|
|Saturday||Manchester Thunder||50-49||Wasps Netball|
|Severn Stars||53-54||Lougborough Lightning|
|Saracens Mavericks||58-50||Surrey Storm|
|Monday||Celtic Dragons||v||London Pulse|
|Team Bath||v||Severn Stars|
There was plenty of drama elsewhere as the traditional rivalry between Saracens Mavericks and Storm played out in another entertaining contest at the Hertfordshire Sports Village.
Having lost to Thunder last Saturday, Mavs were keen to get back to winning ways but they were slow out of the traps as Mikki Austin's squad started brightly in need of a victory of their own.
Sitting in sixth spot, Storm returned to winning ways last weekend after three straight defeats and they took an early lead which they held on to going into half-time. But after trailing by two at the break, Mavericks found their stride and a dominant third quarter, which they won 15-9, saw them into a four-goal lead heading into the final 15.
And they held on for all three points which moves them back up to second, above Wasps on goal difference and level with Loughborough, who they face next weekend.
Lightning are the hottest team in the league after chalking up a sixth win in succession but only after Severn Stars had threatened an epic fightback at the University of Worcester.
Lightning have been unstoppable since bouncing back from a blow-out defeat to Bath in Round Five with a brilliant win in Manchester, and they were at it again with a second one-point win in a week.
After edging a tight first quarter Lightning looked to be in control, moving five clear by half-time and then eight by the end of the third quarter - but Stars refused to be beaten and, with less than two minutes remaining, they drew level at 52-52.
But just as they did on Monday, Lightning managed to grab the win, Emily Hollingworth forced the turnover and the ice-cool Mary Cholhok made no mistake on the buzzer for the second game in succession.
The drama continues on Monday when Team Bath play their game in hand against Severn Stars. A win for Bath will draw them level with Mavericks, Wasps and Lightning and just three points behind leaders Thunder with seven games remaining.
Watch more live Vitality Netball Superleague when Celtic Dragons host London Pulse on Monday, March 25 live on Sky Sports Mix & Action from 6.45pm. Also, Sky Sports will be showing every game of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup in July.