Vitality Netball Superleague: Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning make statements

Monday 22nd February 2021 09:30 GMT

Karen Greig's outfit took to court for the third match of the day, followed by Sara Bayman's team and the cornerstone of both teams' work was the solidity of their defence.

Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey commanded the court for Thunder while Alice Harvey and Sam May stepped up for Loughborough Lightning.

Round Three of the Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Monday with two matches live on Sky Sports Mix and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 5pm.

Celtic Dragons take on Surrey Storm before Wasps Netball meet Team Bath Netball.

Thunder dominate and signal intent

After making a slow start during their first game of the season against Sirens, Greig's outfit raced out the blocks this time around and showed the benefits of 13 of their squad having come through their pathway.

From the outset, they asserted their dominance against Pulse, who suffered a last-gasp 42-40 defeat to Surrey Storm in their season opener. Early turnovers in Thunder's defensive end were quickly converted to goals and that sequence was to be the order of the first 12 minutes.

The 2019 champions rattled off eight goals without reply, and Pulse's attacking struggles were compounded by Thunder's defensive discipline - the returning Kerry Almond was central to their confident start and her long-standing partnership with Emma Dovey shone.

Thunder led 18-7 after the first quarter, and during the first pause in play, Pamela Cookey in commentary sighted the need for London Pulse to tighten up their connections and inject some pace and width into their attacking play.

Pulse's head coach Sam Bird clearly agreed as she introduced Adean Thomas on at WA, having given Lefebre Rademan the nod from the outset.

Meanwhile, Greig decided to maintain the line-up that had delivered their 11-goal lead after the first 12 minutes, and they picked up where they left off to stretch their advantage to 33-13 at the halfway point.

At the interval, Thunder did mix up things up personnel wise, with Caroline O'Hanlon arriving at WA and Laura Malcom shifting to WD. In the circle, Lois Pearson's entrance moved Eleanor Cardwell back into the goal shooter position.

For Pulse, Bird turned to her bench again in order to try and change the picture of the match.

Funmi Fadoju was called upon to bring the dynamism that she's famed for at GD, while shooter Sigi Burger was replaced by Olivia Tchine and Ashleigh Dekker came on for Michelle Drayne at C.

During the second half of the contest, the Londoners never gave up. Dekker produced some wonderful pieces of athleticism and Halimat Adio worked tirelessly in defence.

They cut the deficit to 37-18 following a bright start to the second half, but continued to make some unforced errors which their opponents pounced on.

Greig used the latter stages to continue to expose the younger members of her squad to Vitality Netball Superleague life, and yet again, Berri Neil looked sharp.

All in all, it was a productive day's work for Thunder and a challenging day at the office for London Pulse.

Lightning have too much for Mavs

Loughborough Lightning secured their second victory of the new season in style and a slick performance produced their 60-35 result.

From start to finish they pressured Mavericks and forced Kat Ratnapala, who was missing the services of Jo Trip, Jodie Gibson and Ine-Mari Venter in particular, into making a wealth of changes throughout to try and find the magic ingredient.

After a shaky first feed into Mary Cholhok, Bayman's team quickly put the first three goals on the board.

Kadeen Corbin was able to open Mavericks' account, however as the minutes ticked by, pressure from Beth Cobden, May, Harvey continued to disrupt their work.

After six minutes of play, Loughborough's 6-1 lead was well-deserved and they maintained their high standard to secure a 12-8 cushion after 12 minutes.

At the first pause, Ratnapala turned to her bench. She introduced Gabriella Marshall at C, shifted Corbin out to GA and brought on Britney Clarke at shooter.

Meanwhile, Bayman stuck with her starting seven and implored her outfit to pick up where they left off. They did exactly that by picking up the pace, finding Cholhok with ease and maintaining their defensive pressure.

With three minutes before the break, Mavericks rejigged their line-up again, having not seen the change in output that they wanted, while Lightning introduced Ella Clark for her first appearance of the season.

The half ended with Clarke slotting goals for Mavericks and Razia Quashie pressuring Cholhok, but Lightning continued to keep composed and open up a nine-goal [26-17] cushion.

Half-time delivered further Mavericks changes as Corbin and Steph Collard made way for Chloe Essam and Aliyah Zaranyika. Lightning, who remained at ease with their work, stayed unchanged and undeterred.

They duly won the third quarter 19-12 and although Mavs never let their energy levels drop, Lightning's hold on the contest was an unrelenting one.

"I'm so proud of the team," Loughborough captain, Nat Panagarry, said after their 25-goal victory. "It was such a team performance; we had the intensity from the start and then we really pushed on after half-time.

"There were still some silly errors that we need to tidy up, but I'm so proud of the girls."

Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Monday with two back-to-back matches, live on Sky Sports Mix and streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 5pm.

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