As expected, it was a tough night for Manchester Thunder, who were unable to maintain their 100% away record and prevent Team Bath from securing their first home victory of the season.
From the first whistle to the last, it was a predictably physical battle between the two sides but it was Team Bath who put on an impressive display in front of a sell out home crowd at the University of Bath.
Thunder took an early lead but were unconvincing at times and struggled to establish their presence on court. Bath managed to find a rhythm and a system that worked and went ahead inside ten minutes.
The Black and Yellows were lacking their usual pace through the middle of the court and Rachel Shaw was able to slip away from Amy Carter to feed shooters Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane.
Carter was swapped for Laura Malcolm for the start of the second quarter in an attempt to quash Bath’s waves of attack. The combinations between Mia Ritchie and Shaw were starting to cause a headache for Thunder’s defence.
Thunder went within one goal and a comeback seemed to be on the cards, but they couldn’t quite draw level and as the quarter played out, momentum, and a bit of luck, was on Bath’s side.
The ball seemed to find it’s way into Bath’s attacking circle just a little too easily but Head Coach Karen Greig stuck to her guns heading into the third quarter.
It became an uphill battle for Thunder, as Bath grew in confidence with the backing of the crowd, both sides knew that it was going to be a decisive 15 minutes.
Thunder started to slip away after bridging the gap in the second quarter, Greig traded Kerry Almond for Rebekah Airey in an effort to stop Bath’s two in form shooters.
The contact calls came thick and fast against Thunder but they were resilient in attack. Bath stretched their lead to five heading into the final 15 minutes, but Thunder are no strangers to a comeback and they were still in touching distance.
The final quarter played out much like the third, frustrations on the court grew but Bath took advantage of the mistakes and as the clock ticked down the comeback looked unlikely.
Airey made some huge interceptions in the circle, but it wasn’t quite enough to see off a drilled Bath side, who made no changes, sticking to their starting seven throughout. With Drakeford-Lewis shooting at an impressive 95% and Commane an equally commendable 93%, there was little time for error.
A tricky evening for the Black and Yellows, their first defeat on the road, a tough one to take. As expected, the battle was heated, intense and captivating, it just wasn’t quite Thunder’s night.
Thunder travel to Wasps for another tough away trip on Wednesday 6th March.
Manchester Thunder: Almond, Dovey, Carter, O’Hanlon, Leota, Turner, Mvula
Team Bath: Artman, Usoro-Brown, Allison, Ritchie, Shaw, Drakeford-Lewis, Commane