An inspired Manchester Thunder saw-off Team Bath 51-60 in round six of the Superleague.
From the outset Thunder were intense and clinical, especially in attack, and were not fazed by coming up against one of the best defences in the league.
Bath battled hard and enjoyed periods of dominance but they had no answer to Thunder’s fluidity and pressure, most notably in the second half.
Thunder, although not yet the complete package, were imperious and classy in all areas of the court, and it will take a special side to beat them in this kind of form.
Karen Greig, who had asked for an all-round and consistent performance from her players before the game, said: “I’m really pleased with the win. I thought we were clinical at times.
“It’s probably as close as we have been all season to putting in a full 60min shift but we still have work to do.
“Our attack end stood up to a physical battle and our defenders never say die attitude and turned the ball over at crucial times.
“As I’ve said before, we have to back it up next Friday against Mavericks.”
It a was a topsy-turvy opening quarter, with teams cherishing possession and defences kept marking tight, asking plenty of questions of the shooters.
A six-goal blitz from Bath at the end of the first quarter undid Thunder’s hard work in forcing a lead.
That lapse in concentration from Thunder was a real shame, as it had been a promising start for the visitors, who sometimes struggle to impose themselves on games in the opening stages.
Joyce Mvula initially struggled, missing a couple of early chances, but just as her team around her settled into the game, so did she and the Malawi shooter would not be stifled by a strong and physical Bath defence of Layla Guscoth and Eboni Beckford-Chambers.
The second quarter played out similarly to the first, but Thunder stepped up their intensity and Bath started to make unforced errors. Thunder’s attack was now in free-flow, as Sky Sports Player of the Match Liana Leota pulled off some signature audacious skill to work the ball to her shooters.
She was supported around the shooting circle by Caroline O’Hanlon at centre, whose power, speed and passing range left Bath chasing shadows
Kadeen Corbin was a constant menace to Thunder’s defence in the first half, but Emma Dovey did a good job at keeping her out of the circle and the Black and Yellows captain’s patience paid-off with a couple of intercepts and tips.
This left Almond one-on-one with Chelsea Lewis, and it was shaping up to be a classic battle of attack v defence the more the game progressed
Thunder produced some of their best netball of the season so far in the third quarter as Bath were rattled.
An impressive Mvula was now finding herself free from the shackles of Bath’s defence much more frequently and playing with sass and belief, allowing Kathryn Turner to shoot her signature long-bombs.
The Thunder goal attack was her coach’s pick for Player of the Match, and it’s hard to argue against her.
While Leota played with flair and intensity, Turner was both of these things while also producing a shooting masterclass, against a solid defence.
Thunder’s defence also started to win the 50-50s, and they carried their confidence into the final quarter, as But Bath’s attacking intent faded.
Despite a resurgence following the introduction of new signing Zan Vimbela, Bath were too far behind and Thunder were in no mood to let them back in and were relentless and unforgiving right to the final whistle.
Thunder now face benecosMavericks on March 16 at the Thunderdome, before the teams take a mid-season break for the Commonwealth Games.
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Thunder starting 7: Thunder starting 7 to play Team Bath Netball: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Carter, C O’Hanlon, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula