Manchester Thunder ground out an important win over Team Bath at a colourful Thunderdome.
It was a game that had a bit of every shade, from red-hot swift attacking play to resolute defensive work and purple patches for both teams.
Thunder showed their solidarity to Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, which aims to encourage inclusivity and equality in sport for the LGBT community, by sporting the multi-coloured laces.
Bath gave as good as they got, continuously coming back every time Thunder threatened to extend their lead.
Both squads will now turn their attention to the semi-finals next weekend for a chance to play in the Grand Final on July 7.
Head coach Karen Greig said: “I’m happy to take the win.
“The game had a lot of positives, we played some awesome netball, moved the ball around well, moved around the circle well and put Bath under a lot of physical pressure.
“We were just wasteful with turnover at times.
“I thought the game was brutal, both sides taking hits but luckily came out unscathed
“We need to move on quickly, big week ahead preparing for semi-final.”
Manchester Thunder started strongly and steamed into a three goal lead, with Liana Leota and Caroline O’Hanlon showing some great vision from their very first attacking move.
But Bath soon settled and stayed in touch and the intensity simmered down as the quarter wore on.
Thunder were having significant success in defence, with Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey producing intercepts and reading Bath’s play and stunting their momentum.
With both sides wrestling for control it became a real battle in the centre court.
Thunder led by one heading into the second, which started with a nasty fall for Bath centre Mia Richie, who was able to make her way to the bench following a couple of minutes flat on her back.
The unscheduled break seemed to help Thunder, who were playing with more urgency after the restart.
Shooters Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner were making the most of their opportunities, and dealing with an imposing defensive duo in Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Layla Guscoth
Thunder’s patient build-up play gave them vital control and confidence as they approached half time.
The Black and Yellows came out after the break like a bunch of road-runners, stretching their lead out to seven with blistering pace.
But the game soon settled, Bath regrouped and it turned into a scrappy and disjointed quarter.
Bath were buoyed by the return of Richie to centre and were seconds away from levelling the score before the third quarter-time buzzer sounded.
The final quarter saw each side enjoy periods of control.
But it was Thunder who did the business in the pivotal moments. From creative feeds into Mvula from Leota and O’Hanlon to intercepts from Dovey and Amy Carter in defence to halt Bath’s attack.
It was the kind of bruising and competitive game encounter that’s come to be expected from these two sides.
But Thunder deserve their win and will look to build on it when they face Loughborough Lightning for a place in the final against Wasps, or tonight’s opponents.
Player of the match: Emma Dovey
Thunder – GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C O’Hanlon, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula
Bath – GK Beckford-Chambers, GD Guscoth, WD Allison, C Ritchie, WA Shaw, GA Corbin, GS Lewis