Manchester Thunder took on England Roses in their second of three matches where they ‘take on the world’ as part of the build up to the Netball World Cup. With only one week left before the World Cup gets underway, Tracey Neville’s England Roses put on a impressive display of netball to beat Thunder 38-75.
England got off to a flying start, with an early turnover on Thunder’s centre pass, they managed to tally up five goals before Thunder got a look in. A couple of mistakes from Thunder got them off to a shaky start, England were unforgiving in attack and it was already clear that the packed out Belle Vue crowd were in for a feast of quality netball.
Thunder fans will of been pleased to see the return of Kathryn Turner and Liana Leota to the team sheet after they missed the match up earlier this week against Jamaica due to illness. Leota caused trouble for England, feeding the shooters well and opening up the gaps for Thunder to take advantage. But England’s pace and agility in attack was too much for Thunder’s mid-court and they were caught out a few times with stray passes and a lack of options.
England scored an impressive 22 goals in the opening 15 minutes, compared to Thunder’s five. Thunder hadn’t seen enough of the ball to create chances and were struggling to assert themselves in the game. But England were quietly ruthless and played with a determined mentality that radiated from the entire squad.
Thunder looked brighter in the second quarter and managed to keep England’s goals down to a more palatable 16. Ellie Cardwell enjoyed spells at both GA and GS and performed well in both, scoring some absolute beauties, much to the loyal Thunder crowd’s delight. But the shooting was good at the other end too, with Jo Harten’s sheer presence, and Helen Housby running her former team mates ragged. Interspersed with appearances from Nat Haythornthwaite at GA, it was a tough trio for Thunder to contend with.
Head coach Karen Greig took the opportunity once again to make some changes and give players a run out. Likewise, England coach Neville tested her squad’s strength in depth and the third quarter saw the arrival of Rachel Dunn to GS, someone Kerry Almond has come up against multiple times this season, not least in the Grand Final where Thunder emerged as Superleague Champions after defeating Dunn’s Wasps.
England continued to punish Thunder’s mistakes and as the third quarter drew to a close it was clear there was little chance of a comeback. Thunder fought to find an opening, Cardwell was shooting well and in the face of England’s Geva Mentor, that was no mean feat. But opportunities were sparse for feeds into the circle as England closed down any Thunder attempt to develop some momentum.
The final quarter saw England build on an already solid lead. There were more passages of impressive play from the Roses and as time went on it was hard to tell which side the crowd were on, with fans cheering for both sides in equal measure. And that’s what it’s all about. Another fantastic showcase of netball and a chance for fans to get a taste for the Roses form before they head for the World Cup. From what we saw today, it’s looking good. England looked sharp, decisive and cut-throat.
Serena Guthrie commented at full time that it was special to play in front of a crowd like that just a week before the World Cup. It may not have been Thunder’s afternoon, but it was the perfect set up for the Roses and the start of their World Cup journey.
Thunder take on their final opponents tomorrow in the form of Australia. Tickets will be available on the door.
Photo Credit: Eliza Morgan
Thunder: Cardwell, Turner, Leota, Carter, Malcolm, Dovey, Airey
Roses: Harten, Housby, Pitman, Guthrie, Guscoth, Usoro-Brown, Mentor