The Black and Yellows led from the start, blowing Bath away in the opening quarter and despite a spirited comeback from the visitors in the final period, they ran out 53 – 46 winners. It is the second final in three years for Thunder and coach Dan Ryan has guided his side there on his debut season in charge.
Captain Sara Bayman, who was skipper when Thunder last won the trophy in 2014, said it feels ‘good’ to make it to another final. “It’s feels so good. We just had to win that game and thankfully we did,” she said. “Our attack struggled a bit today and we were a bit static so we will want to improve on that for the final – but nerves played a part. Our defence won us the game today. You’d be hard pressed to lose a game with them playing like that.”
Jodie Gibson at goal defence was once again monumental in shutting out a strong Bath attacking line, and exchanged turnovers with her partner in the circle Malysha Kelly – it was performance that earned her player of the match She said: “I feel so happy with that. The way this season has gone I think we really deserve to get to the final. I feel in myself I have so much more to give and I’m pleased to get player of the match. We never believed we would lose it. We have good enough players to beat anyone and we are really united as a team.”
Thunder came out firing from the first whistle, racing into an 11-goal lead by the end of the first quarter. They simply never looked back.
Gibson, Kelly and Laura Malcolm at wing defence did a solid job restricting Bath’s attack and Thunder were patient and composed at the other end, as Ellie Cardwell and Helen Housby traded goals.
It was an intense battle in the mid-court, especially between Bayman, Natalie Haythornthwaite and Bath’s Claire Brownie, Mia Richie and Jo Vann.
Bath had a much more fluid second half, with Thunder losing their momentum in the third quarter. But a string of positive attacks from Bath in the final phases gave them hope and they clawed the score back to within seven.
Match Report by Denise Evans :: Photo Credit to Tom Nokes