Manchester Thunder cruised to a win over Team Northumbria in their last home game of the regular season.
A sell-out Thunderdome looked on as the defending Superleague champions displayed passages of absolute dominance over the team now rooted to the bottom of the table.
The Black and Yellows will now head to Loughborough on Saturday for round 12, ahead of their huge semi final date at Manchester Arena, against either Yorkshire Jets or Hertfordshire Mavericks.
Laura Malcolm, player of the match, said: “I’m happy with my performance today. We needed to do what we did today before the semi final and with it being our last home game. We also needed that performance today so I’m happy with that.”
It was a quiet start with Team Northumbria going goal for goal with Thunder in the opening phase of the game. Thunder found their rhythm and steamed into a four goal lead but a Chelsea Pitman feed slipped through Travis’ fingers and Northumbria took the chance to level the scores at nine-all.
A Northumbria injury time-out allowed Thunder to regroup and they came out firing, with Malcolm, Pitman and Bayman all producing athletic intercepts. But again the visitors came back and stayed with their unbeaten hosts, restricting the lead to three by the end of the first, 14-11.
But the break came at the wrong time for Northumbria as the Black and Yellows were dominant at the start of the second period and offered up little opportunity for their opposition to snip the rapidly growing lead.
Travis was also starting to find her feet after a shaky start, netting some confidence-boosting long-range efforts as Thunder stretched to a 10-goal lead.
With Thunder now working fluidly in attack, attention switched to Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey in defence, who duly kept up their end of the bargain with a number of well-timed intercepts. Thunder barely reached third gear in the closing stages of the half, reaching the break an unassailable 34-16 points to the good.
With Thunder in such a comfortable lead, head coach Tracey Neville gave her captain Sara Bayman a rest and Malcolm moved to centre.
Kathryn Turner entered the game at goal attack and Housby switched to shooter. Malcolm made an instant impact in her new position, working well with Beth Cobden who replaced her at wing defence. The pair dominated the centre court and Pitman seemed to have shaken of her recent illness to dictate the play around the Thunder shooting circle.
Gabriella Marshall, who had been out injured since February, had proven her fitness in training to earn court time at wing defence, with Cobden switching to wing attack and prolific Pitman moved to the bench. Marshall was sharp and kept her marking tight as she slotted straight in to Thunder’s commanding defence.
Photos credit: Mark Pritchard (4015 Chelsea Pitman, 4090 Laura Malcolm, 4123 Sara Bayman)