A sluggish start lulled the crowd into thinking it was going to be a much closer affair, but a brutal second and third quarter from the Black and yellows blew Jets away. The visitors had no answer to Thunder tenacity and speed, however Maria Lutua was a real bright spark for Jets in attack, with captain Stacey Frances once again colossal in defence.
Thunder coach Dan Ryan was full of praise for his side’s overall performance. “I thought towards the end of the second quarter we were getting our timing and connection right and we hit some great momentum in the third. Kathryn Turner was sensational with her timing and connection with Ellie and for a player that has spent a lot of the season on the bench, it was a real tick in the box for her,” he said “We started slowly and I think that was maybe the hype and build up and a different environment for us. And no doubt a few nerves. I wanted us to build into the match and we did that.” He continued: “It was great to get 12 players on to the court and the fact that we won each quarter is a really pleasing results considering it was so close last time. It was a great team performance tonight – everyone played a part, which is what Netball Manchester Live is all about. The atmosphere was sensational and I loved the buzz around the city and for us to reward all the fans was good to see.”
He added: “I thought we had a couple of contenders for POM but Ellie was rock solid the whole time, her availability under the post was amazing and her shooting volume was phenomenal. She’s backing it up week after week and her shooting averages are world class.” The young shooter was keen to credit her team-mates for her showing, with her partnership with Helen Housby blossoming into a real force in the Vitality Netball Superleague. She said: ”This caps off my recent performances (getting player of the match). It’s really good to play with everyone, and the players around me help me to grow in confidence as a shooter. Having people have confidence in me, as a relatively new shooter, has really brought me on, and it’s just coming together now – I’m really pleased. Having Liana and players like Bayman in training really helps.”
Yorkshire Jets started the hungrier team and forced themselves a decent lead mid-way through the first quarter. But they failed to push on and Thunder pulled themselves level before sneaking in front at the break and they never looked backed. Jets were left chasing the game from the start of the second term, with Thunder dominating the centre court as Sara Bayman demonstrated why she has made the shortlist for Superleague Player of the Season
Thunder upped the tempo as half time approached and ended the second quarter 11 goals to the good.Kathryn Turner entered the fray for the third and slotted straight into the action with an in-form Cardwell, who had shot 43 from 56 Thunder chances by the time we reached the final quarter. It was a brutal team performance in the second half, with the defence suffocating Jets’ attacks at will and the purple and pinks couldn’t force any kind of sustained periods of possession.
Jets had lost their shape and were second to almost every ball and Thunder were in no mood to show them any sympathy as they ruthlessly steam-rolled their opposition, despite Francis’ almost single handed sterling efforts to stop them.Thunder’s healthy lead was a luxury coach Ryan capitalised on, as he brought on young shooter Amy Clinton for a cameo appearance in the closing phases.They continued to dictate play and pick off Jets passes right to the final buzzer and ran out convincing winners in front of a vocal Manchester Arena crowd.
It was a showing of real passion and unity and sets the Black and Yellows up perfectly for their replay match against Hertfordshire Mavericks on April 25.
Report by Denise Evans