Manchester Thunder 49 v 55 Surrey Storm
The Black and Yellows put in a performance littered with unforced errors throughout and ultimately could do nothing about the defending champions inflicting a first loss of the season on them. Surrey travelled to Manchester knowing they needed a win to get their title chances back on track and showed Championship-winning spirit to prove it was a mistake for many to write them off after they lost to Loughborough Lightning on Saturday.
Coach Dan Ryan expects the defeat to hurt his players but he accepts that his side were restricted by an organised Storm side who had ‘done their homework.’ The Australian said: “It was a really disappointing performance from us in all departments. Full credit to Surrey Storm, they were sensational and their intent and purpose really blew us away. We weren’t able to get into out rhythm or groove in any way and that really put us on the back foot but it’s better to experience this in round six rather than when it really matters towards the end of the season.”
Thunder started slowly but gradually grew in confidence as the sides traded the lead early-on. The second quarter was cagey but Thunder enjoyed their best period of the match when they sneaked up to a five-goal advantage. Surrey allowed them to play with some inventive attacking play, led once again by the flair of Liana Leota.
The performance – in front of a sold out Thunderdome and the Sky Sports cameras – dramatically started to unravel after the half time break, with an organised Storm picking off wayward passes.
It was certainly no coincidence that Thunder’s defence was struggling to contain a lively Surrey attack, namely Rachel Dunn, with Jamaican import Malysha Kelly given a tough night marking the experienced England shooter, who was named player of the match.
Storm found themselves with a five-goal lead of their own and started to ask serious questions of Thunder’s attack.
The 2014 champions offered a glimmer of hope midway through the final quarter of getting something out of the game with some brave play from Sara Bayman and Kelly but failed to consolidate the turnovers they had worked so hard to win.
A stubborn Surrey stood firm and emerged as deserving victors.
Thunder starting 7: GK Kelly, GD Gibson, WD Malcolm, C Bayman, WA Leota, GA Haythornthwaite, GS Housby
​Report by Denise Evans :: Photography by Mark Pritchard