There are some matches that are difficult to put into words, even though there is so much to say. That was this game. Manchester Thunder took an unbelievable victory over Wasps in this top of the table clash.
Thunder looked strong to start with. The first quarter played out goal for goal until Thunder took the first crucial turnover, at which point the game began to open up and both sides were hitting each other on the break. The turnovers were falling to Thunder and the goals were too.
Kerry Almond enjoyed blocking out Rachel Dunn and the defensive combination of her and Emma Dovey played a decisive role. Joyce Mvula was only too happy to reward their efforts at the other end. Wasps struggled to find their stride as Thunder seemed to have the upper hand, and a flurry of goals in the last minute saw them leading by six goals at quarter time.
Wasps came into the second quarter with a point to prove. They had already been defeated by this side once and had narrowly lost out to Loughborough Lightning earlier in the week. Thunder kept the pace with the Coventry based side but eventually Jade Clarke and Bongi Msomi did enough to give their shooters the chance to capitalise.
Wasps managed to edge the lead as the first half drew to a close and it was time for Head Coach Karen Greig to make some changes. Amy Carter slotted in at WD in place of Laura Malcolm and Kathryn Turner replaced Ellie Cardwell at GA.
Wasps managed to extend their lead in the third quarter but it never seemed like an uphill battle for Thunder, who always seem to have something left in the tank when faced with the reigning champions.
They had blocked Thunder out successfully across 30 minutes but there were still snippets of opportunity for the Black and Yellows. Carter made an instant impact with her flying interceptions and Almond was solid as a rock in defence. Clarke and Msomi struggled at times to find the openings for the shooters as Thunder made hard work of their attack.
Thunder appeared to be in control on their own centre pass but struggled to find a break and catch Wasps out. But as the clock wore down, Wasps extended a six goal lead and the third quarter looked lost, it was time to focus on the comeback.
As the final quarter got underway it was clear that it was a definitive 15 minutes, not only in the match but also the season.
Thunder flew out of the blocks, determined to make up the deficit and the sell-out crowd were only too pleased to cheer on the home side.
The turnovers were coming thick and fast as each side looked for their moment. Wasps had to be patient in attack and their lack of pace would have been pulled up as held balls on another night. But Thunder were patient too and as the minutes went by the noise at the Wright Robinson grew along with Thunder’s confidence.
The goals started to creep up and with five minutes to go Thunder were chasing only one goal. Carter moved to C and Malcolm came back on at WD.
The game was getting physical and the crowd responded. Dovey, Malcolm and O’Hanlon all ended up on the floor as the battle got more and more intense and Thunder worked relentlessly to cross the line victorious.
Thunder quickly brought it level and didn’t waste any time in taking the lead, either. They were on fire, Almond snatching the rebounds, Carter, Malcolm and Liana Leota all rushing for the interceptions. Greig’s decision to move Carter to C proved itself to be genius. The pace of the game picked up and her interceptions were game changing.
The Black and Yellows were ahead by one but had three minutes to hold onto their lead – three minutes is a long time in a match like this one. And Wasps were not about to go down without a fight. They fell behind by three goals but were able to pull back two as the time ebbed away.
Dunn scored from a Thunder centre pass to go within one with ten seconds to go, and a last ditch attempt to go level saw Clarke hurl the pass towards Dunn who anxiously waited in the semi-circle. But it was too deep and Dunn toppled backwards trying to snatch the ball.
The buzzer sounded and it was over. Thunder had taken their second victory over Wasps in the space of two weeks. The crowd went wild.
An unbelievable comeback and hard fought victory at the original Thunderdome. Thunder forced themselves back into the game and took home the victory, positioning themselves at the top of the league, and deservedly so.
Photo Credit: Mark Pritchard and Eliza Morgan
Thunder’s next home match is against Celtic Dragons on the 6th April. Tickets are available here >> http://bit.ly/thuvcd
Thunder: GS Mvula, GA Cardwell, WA Leota, C O’Hanlon, WD Malcolm, GD Dovey, GK Almond
Wasps: GS Dunn, GA Harris, WA Msomi, C Clarke, WD Flanagan, GD Knights, GK Huckle
Player of the Match: Kerry Almond