Manchester Thunder held their own in what was perhaps the surprise match of the week, but eventually succumbed to a 62-94 defeat after a gruelling final two quarters.
Ears pricked up and eyes were locked in as Australia opened proceedings in Manchester and Laura Malcolm flew in with an early interception off the first centre pass. After yesterday’s defeat at the hands of England Roses, Thunder could be forgiven for looking a bit tired. But on the contrary, the Black and Yellows looked alert and spritely and the game was an open playing field for the first fifteen minutes.
The crowd were treated to some new faces in the Thunder squad as the four Diamonds training partners, Emily Mannix, Tegan Philip, Gabi Simpson and Kate Moloney teamed up with the existing Thunder squad to ensure that all the Diamonds got a hit out on court. The Aussies were missing captain Caitlin Bassett due to a concussion, it was announced this morning, but her presence on the sideline didn’t go unnoticed and stand in captain Liz Watson had an impressive stint on court.
The second quarter was more of the same, end to end and goal for goal. Although Diamonds had the upper hand, it was still within touching distance for Thunder. Head Coach Karen Greig incorporated the new faces with the old, and the combinations were working. Moloney raced up and down the court and provided a welcome link between defence and attack, particularly in the absence of Thunder staple Caroline O’Hanlon, who is representing Northern Ireland in the World Cup. But Australia returned from the break looking more slick, more clinical and more ruthless.
It was the third quarter where they really established a lead and through good work from Steph Wood at GA and Gretel Tippett at GS, the Diamonds seemed to have found their stride and were passing the ball around comfortably. By the end of the third quarter, Australia looked to have gone up a gear and were set to finish Thunder off.
The fourth quarter played out much the same as the third with the Aussies racking up another 19 goals compared to Thunder’s ten. Diamonds were defensively solid throughout, preventing Liana Leota from making those signature runs and passes, and causing frustration for the shooters, who frequently had the ball stolen from their grip under the post.
A fifth quarter was played to ensure all the Aussie players got some time on court. The eleven time World Cup winners impressed the crowd with a feat of fitness and stamina to play at such a high tempo and intensity for 75 minutes. That being said, Cardwell had an impressive innings playing all five quarters and still shooting to a high standard to the last buzzer. The little giggle at the end said it all.
Three days, three games of netball for Thunder. Although there were three losses, there was much to be pleased with across each day. Highlights were seeing young fans in awe of their idols, getting autographs and photos with their heroes and cheering for both teams in equal measure, getting caught up in the sheer excitement of it all. World Cup fever has gripped Manchester, and Thunder have been at the centre of it all.
We want to wish all teams the best of luck in their upcoming World Cup campaigns.
Photo Credit: Eliza Morgan
Thunder: Cardwell, Philip, Leota, Moloney, Malcolm, Dovey, Almond
Australia: Thwaites, Tippett, Watson, Hadley, Price, Weston, Klau