The round eight Superleague game had plenty of drama and saw Black and Yellows shooter Joyce Mvula sent off in the second quarter for persistent obstruction. But the incident was merely a minor setback and only served to drive Thunder on with a masterclass of patient attacking play in the second half.
The game was fractured, pacey and frantic, with the sides exchanging interceptions and turnovers (41 in total) at will, but often failing to consolidate them.
There was pockets of perfection and moments of madness in a game that had a 1,000-strong crowd enthralled throughout. Black and Yellows captain Emma Dovey led from the front, bossing the defence and her ability to keep her composure in a real pressure cooker atmosphere significantly impacted on the players around her.
“We were a real team on court,” She said, of her side who have now won six games in a row. “We kept composure and were able to look after and fight for each other. We grinded out a very tough win. Emma led by example. She isn’t one of our most vocal players but she did a brilliant job on the court tonight. She turned over ball at crucial times, at times as a team we could have lost it. She really pulled things together on the court.”
It was a ping-pong style game for the first quarter with both sides trading goals – and errors. The scores went on centre until the closing stages of the opening period, which was feisty and physical. Bath pulled into a slender lead after sensing a lack of cohesion in the Thunder camp. The Blue and Golds were getting moments of success in attack, with Chelsea Fisher quickly locked in a battle with Dovey. Shooter Joyce Mvula cut a frustrated figure as she battled to get free, which earned her a caution for obstruction and her captain followed suit for contact a few minutes later.
The second quarter picked up with the same intensity but neither side could force any kind of sustained pressure or fluidity. Mvula’s day went from bad to worse when she was sent off for two minutes as half time approached but she bounced back instantly upon her return to court. Thunder managed to escape that time a player down with minimal damage, as Turner held her own in the circle, despite being boxed in by two imposing defenders.
The tension cranked up even further in the second half, with Thunder trying – and failing – to take the initiative with a breakaway lead as Bath were resolute and stubborn. While Bath rang the changes, Greig opted to keep to her starting seven for all four quarters. But Thunder’s unity and tenacity finally broke Bath’s resistance in the final quarter and they opened up an unassailable lead as the clock ticked down. It was a gritty win for Thunder and one which will give them confidence heading into their next home game against Surrey Storm.
Q1: 12-8. Q2: 20-23 (8-15). Q3: 31-33 (11-10). Q4: 41-48 (10-15).
Starting 7: GS: Joyce Mvula; GA: Kathryn Turner; WA: Liana Leota; C: Gabby Marshall; WD: Bea Skingsley; GD: Emma Dovey; GK: Kerry Almond
Report by Denise Evans