Thunder and Lightning to create grand final storm

THERE is little doubt the two best Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) teams are through to the decider, after top two sides Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning both won their respective semi-finals. Their respective opponents – Team Bath and London Pulse – put up fights, but ultimately fell short against the sides, creating a grand final rematch of last year between the storm-related sides. While the Lightning won that encounter, the Thunder will head in as favourite in 2022.

  • Team
  • Manchester Thunder
  • Team Bath

Manchester Thunder had to fight hard, but eventually fought past a gallant Team Bath to record an impressive 10-goal win. The Thunder fell behind at the first break, with Bath out to play, taking a 17-16 advantage at quarter time. Manchester regained control in the second term which ultimately set the win up, scoring 18 goals to 12 and grabbing a five-goal buffer at half-time. That lead grew to eight by the final break, and then another successful term in the fourth of 16-14 saw the minor premiers win 64-54 and book their spot in tomorrow’s grand final.

It was a real impressive performance in the front third of the court, with Eleanor Cardwell (31 goals from 34 attempts, 15 feeds and two intercepts) and Joyce Mvula (33 from 36). Natalie Metcalf (18 feeds, one intercept, one deflection and one turnover) and Caroline O’Hanlon (19 feeds, one intercept and one turnover) were also strong in midcourt, while defender Kerry Almond collected seven deflections, one intercept and three turnovers. For Team Bath, Kim Borger shot 32 goals from 36 attempts, and picked up two rebounds and one deflection in her penultimate game for the blue and gold. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (11 goals from 12 attempts and 12 feeds) and captain Imogen Allison (19 feeds, one deflection and one turnover) tried hard, whilst the defensive combination of Phumza Maweni (six deflections, two rebounds, one intercept and five turnovers) and Layla Guscoth (three intercepts, two deflections, one rebound and four turnovers) were once again impressive in defeat.

  • Team
  • Loughborough Lightning
  • London Pulse

Loughborough Lightning proved a little too strong for London Pulse, winning the first three quarters to ensure they have a crack at a second successive flag, running out 12-goal victors in the second semi-final. The Lightning took the lead 14-10 by the first break, and extended their advantage to seven by half-time. That lead kept growing to build into the double digits, making it 12 by the final break. That was enough to get the job done as the Pulse stemmed the bleeding, but also could not make any inroads in the final term, with the Lightning picking up the 56-44 win.

Fran Williams was terrific in defence with six deflections, one rebound and two turnovers, as Alice Harvey was intercepting everything, collecting half a dozen intercepts, two deflections and also six turnovers in a really defensively-strong performance. Ella Clark (19 goals from 22 attempts) and Hannah Joseph both had 19 feeds in the game, while Mary Cholhok put up 32 goals from 36 attempts, and recorded the two rebounds and one deflection in the win. Funmi Fadoju (six deflections, two intercepts, one rebound and four turnovers) and Zara Everitt (four deflections, one intercept and two turnovers) battled hard in defence for the Pulse, while Olivia Tchine scored 23 goals from 25 attempts in the shooting circle. Ellie Rattu (two deflections, one intercept, two turnovers and four feeds) did some nice things off the bench, as Sacha McDonald scored nine goals at 100 per cent efficiency and had three feeds.

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