It was the visitors that shaded an even and scrappy first half, as Thunder seemed to still be in dream land over their previous victory against Wasps 10 days earlier. But the Black and Yellows started to turn on the charm in the second half and a fluid and classy final quarter stamped out any resistance left in a spirited Mavericks squad.
Coach Karen Greig was pleased her charge was able to keep up their winning run, despite a sluggish start. “We made it hard for ourselves in that first half, we’ve not played since last Friday and we were slow out of the blocks and it showed. But once we started sticking to task and believing in each other, it really started to come together,” she said. “You can see how the game opened up in the third quarter and we played with a lot more confidence and we were letting the ball do the work. We pushed on in the last quarter and we all had a great game in the end.”
Greig was full of praise for a strong showing from Mavericks, who are ‘really strong’ defensively. She added: “They posed us plenty of problems but once we started implementing what we needed, it worked for us and they made changes in the defensive end so it was nice that we were able to force them into that.”
It was more of the same in the second quarter, as Mavericks continued to take the initiative, with Thunder unable to gain any kind of consistency in attack.
Star shooter Joyce Mvula was slightly off-colour and she was replaced by an impressive Amy Clinton just before half time. It was Greig’s only change of the game and it was proven to be a justified one. As at just 19, Clinton showed great maturity and composure to only miss one shot in such a high-pressure situation. It is also worth noting that once again Kathryn Turner put in a solid showing at goal attack, scoring a series of nerve-settling long-shots throughout the game.
The second half was a different story for Thunder as they began to move through the gears straight after the break. Lead wonderfully by player of the match Liana Leota at wing attack, Thunder’s attack began to patiently pick apart Mavericks’ defence. They were supported resolutely by the defensive trio of Bea Skingsley, Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond, who are becoming a real nuisance for any opposition they face.
Thunder turned the screw in the final quarter, offering their fans in a packed Thunderdome, and at home watching on Sky Sports Mix, some real flair and fast-paced netball. Mavericks refused to give up and pestered Thunder right up until the final whistle with tight marking but the home side held on to take the win, which lifts them into the play-off places, level on points with Wasps. The final score was 59-50. Greig will not have to worry about having too much time in-between games this week, as Thunder next play Team Bath on Friday night.
Player of the match comments from Liana Leota
“I was surprised to get player of the match as I’m still getting back into playing a full game, but I’m chuffed. We needed to work on our passing today and we didn’t have trust in each other. But I knew it would come, it was just a case of when in the game. It’s really good to get a fifth win in a row. Losing at the start (of the season) has helped us and we know what we need to do to not be in that position again.”
Thunder starting 7 to face Mavericks: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C Marshall, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula ​
Report by Denise Evans