Thunder overpowered Stars to record biggest win of the season

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Manchester Thunder overpowered Severn Stars in Worcester to record their biggest win of the season.

The Black and Yellows dominated the hosts across court in a ruthless second half performance to secure a thumping 42-63 victory. It was a fairly even start to the game but Thunder always threatened to push on after half time, as their army of travelling fans lapped up magical moments in attack from Liana Leota, Gabby Marshall in centre court and from Kerry Almond in defence. But it was a solid performance from all seven players that pleased coach Karen Greig the most, as she saw her side notch up a 21-goal winning margin. “I was pleased with the whole game, despite us having a slow start,“ she said. “Once we found our groove, we pushed on. We got lots of turnover and apart from a few minutes in the second quarter, we were in control.” Greig added: “All seven players had a great game and put a great deal of pressure on the Stars attack end and forced them into making some changes, which was good from our defence. Our attack end really showed some class tonight, with Liana Leota exceptional at wing attack and some of her feeds and trickery around the circle edge were too much for the Stars defence. Joyce Mvula also put in a good, solid performance. Gabs Marshall was excellent in both attack and defence and had a real impact on the court tonight.”

Thunder had added motivation for this one after their previous visit to the Worcester Arena saw them take home the Superleague Grand Final title in dramatic fashion. And that sweet win was there for all to see in a framed picture of the Thunder squad and staff lifting the trophy, hanging proudly at the arena where they were to again repeat their success, this time against Superleague newcomers Stars, a team with four former Thunder players in its ranks.
 
Stars came out of the blocks at Usain Bolt-speed but Thunder stayed with the pace and bided their time until midway through the first quarter, when they started to take hold of the centre court, with Gabby Marshall and Bea Skingsley key. Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey had considerable success in defence early-on and throughout, but Thunder’s attack will have been disappointed with their lacklustre start. However, the Black and Yellows took a slender 11-13 lead into the quarter-time break, ultimately the happier of the two teams.
 
Stars’ Laura Malcolm and Marshall were locked in battle at centre, but it was the young Thunder utility player that had the better of her former Thunder team-mate, a player some would argue she learnt a huge chunk of her craft from in the first place. Malcolm was replaced in the first half and returned to the fray at wing attack in the closing stages. Stars scored six on the bounce in their best period of the match in the second quarter, as their tight man-marking stifled Thunder’s attack.
 
But as half time loomed, Thunder turned on the charm as Leota whipped in a number of delicious feeds to a waiting Mvula, who was also starting the enjoy herself. Thunder took a handy six-goal lead into the break. Mvula had the Stars’ defence worked out and her inventive movement and combination play with Kathryn Turner was too much for Josie Janz-Dawson and Rachel Sweet. Stars attempted to disrupt Thunder’s fluid attacking game by bringing on experienced defender Becky Oatley for Sweet to partner Janz-Dawson. It worked in patches but Mvula was still able to find space freely. Thunder’s control in the second half was calculated and ruthless, as they patiently built up their lead with timely defensive intercepts and intelligent play, which simply out-thought their opposition in the centre court. The visiting side bullied Stars in the third quarter, especially in defence as shooter Ellie Cardwell grew frustrated with Almond’s ability to track her every move.

Although Stars’ light flickered in patches, it was Thunder who shined the brightest with a blistering display in the final quarter, to secure a huge goal margin win, which may prove vital when play-off places are decided.

Report by Denise Evans