Thunder strikes twice to remain unbeaten

MANCHESTER Thunder have remained unbeaten in the 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season after accounting for Saracens Mavericks in a top of the table clash. The Thunder then went on to easily defeat Wasps, and head into Round 6 as one of only two undefeated sides with reigning premiers, Loughborough Lightning.

  • Team
  • Strathclyde Sirens
  • Loughborough Lightning

Loughborough Lightning maintained their unbeaten streak in the VNSL with a 13-goal victory over Strathclyde Sirens to open Round 5. The Lightning produced a strong four-quarter performance to win three of the quarters by four or more goals, and eventually come away with the 61-48 victory. Though the Sirens won the third term to cut the deficit back to eight goals at the final break, the reigning premiers proved too good, securing yet another victory.

Holding shooter Mary Cholhok was superb once again for the Lightning, putting up 49 of a possible 53 goals, whilst Ella Clark managed 11 from 13. Natalie Panagarry had team-high 20 feeds into the circle, with Beth Cobden‘s (two intercepts, three deflections and two turnovers) intercepting ability and Fran Williams‘ (five rebounds, four deflections and three turnovers) strength close to the post coming to the fore.

Strathclyde’s shooting duo of Bethan Goodwin (28 goals from 36 attempts) and Niamh McCall (16 from 23) did not have the same accuracy as their Lightning counterparts, but Emma Barrie made her VNSL return, nailing all four attempts she had. Towera Vinkhumbo stood out in defence with team-highs in intercepts (four) ad turnovers (five) to be a star for the Sirens, whilst Gia Abernethy (24 feeds) was strong in centre.

Strathclyde Sirens take on Surrey Storm on Saturday afternoon in Round 6, with Loughborough Lightning set to host Saracens Mavericks in a blockbuster clash at Sir David Wallace Arena on Saturday night.

  • Team
  • London Pulse
  • Cardiff Dragons

London Pulse remained in touch with the top four teams by taking care of cellar dwellers Celtic Dragons as expected despite a tough challenge for three quarters. Back at Copper Box Arena, the Pulse found themselves in a tight tussle with the Dragons, winning each of the first three quarters, but only taking a five-goal lead into the last term. The Welsh side had been competitive up to that point, but the Pulse put the foot down in the final quarter, piling on 18 goals to 10 to come away with the 50-37 victory.

Sacha McDonald did not miss a shot as she settled into the shooting circle with 15 goals at 100 per cent efficiency, pairing up with in-form goal shooter Olivia Tchine (28 goals from 33 attempts). Funmi Fadoju was ridiculously good, seemingly getting her hands everywhere on the opposition transition, amassing a huge 12 deflections to go with seven turnovers, three rebounds and two intercepts. Ashleigh Dekker showed that full court pressure with four intercepts and four turnovers from the midcourt.

Katarina Short lead the scoring for the Dragons with 16 goals from 19 attempts, as the Dragons defence had their work cut out for them. In saying that, both Shaquanda Greene-Noel (six intercepts, three deflections, three rebounds and nine turnovers) and Annabel Roddy (five intercepts, one deflection, two intercepts and seven turnovers( were both superb under immense pressure, whilst Nia Jones (three deflections, two intercepts and three turnovers) supported them well in wing defence.

London Pulse hosts Severn Stars next Saturday at the Copper Box Arena, whilst Celtic Dragons hit the road again, also taking on the Stars in a Round 6 Monday evening fixture.

  • Team
  • Saracens Mavericks
  • Manchester Thunder

The all-undefeated clash between Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks lived up to expectations, with the former coming away with a three-goal victory (59-56). It was neck-and-neck the entire way, and though the Thunder won three of the four quarters, easily had the biggest challenge of their season thus far. Manchester lead by a goal at quarter time and extended that to three by the main break. The Mavericks hit back in the third to reduce it back a goal and remain in touch at the final break, before the Thunder held firm to win the last quarter by a goal and record the narrow victory.

The shooting dynamic was different from the Thunder’s two high-volume talents, with Eleanor Cardwell taking the lead role over Joyce Mvula. Cardwell shot 38 goals from 41 attempts, whilst Mvula managed 20 from 22, in another strong pairing. Up the other end, the likes of Laura Malcolm and Kerry Almond tried to disrupt the Mavericks attack, with Natalie Metcalf producing a game-high 17 feeds in wing attack.

Ine-Mari Venter was still a powerhouse under the post, recording 49 goals from 55 attempts, as Kadeen Corbin (13 from 14) lent support. Corbin also produced 15 feeds in the match, with defender Razia Quashie doing incredibly well to restrict Mvula to her lowest goal tally of the season and forcing a tactical rethink by the Thunder.

It was the first of two wins for the Thunder in Round 5, whilst Saracens Mavericks had the week’s break until taking on another unbeaten side in Loughborough Lightning next Saturday night.

  • Team
  • Severn Stars
  • Team Bath

Coming off a shock loss in the previous round, Team Bath almost had a similar feeling again when Severn Stars took it right up to them for four quarters. Bath looked to be on top early scoring 14 goals to 10 in the first term, and even held a three-goal advantage heading into the main break. Then the home team got going with an eye-catching 14-9 third quarter to lead by two with a quarter to play. Sensing the danger, Bath picked up the bid again and repeated Stars’ effort with 14 goals to nine in the last term to win by three goals, 48-45.

Phumza Maweni made her Team Bath debut, and whilst she had 22 penalties, the goal keeper recorded seven deflections, four turnovers and three defensive rebounds, working in tandem with fellow international Layla Guscoth (five deflections, one turnover). Up the other end, Kim Borger (26 goals from 30 attempts) and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (15 from 17) were both accurate, whilst captain Imogen Allison recorded the most feeds with 14.

Speaking of feeds, no one had more than Stars captain Liana Leota (18) as the long awaited and anticipated debut of Cathrine Tuivaiti only lasted a few minutes before Issy Eaton (four goals from six attempts) joined Paige Reed (32 from 34) on the court. Summer Artman (two rebounds, four deflections and four turnovers) was also impressive in defence.

Team Bath hosts Manchester Thunder in a blockbuster Round 6 Friday night clash, whilst Severn Stars do the double next round, battling against London Pulse on the road on Saturday, before hosting Celtic Dragons on Monday evening.

  • Team
  • Surrey Storm
  • Leeds Rhinos

Surrey Storm have leapfrogged Leeds Rhinos into sixth on the VNSL table and are just three points adrift of the top four. The Storm picked up their second win of the season with the victory over the Rhinos, really powering away after quarter time. After an even first term of 16 goals apiece, the Storm produced a 15-10 second term, then won the last two quarters 14-12 and 13-11 respectively to come away with the nine-goal win, 58-49.

Storm goal shooter Peace Proscovia was unstoppable, scoring 56 goals at 100 per cent efficiency, carrying the scoring load. Up the other end, Leah Middleton (four intercepts, four deflections, four rebounds and nine turnovers) and Alima Priest (two intercepts, three deflections, two rebounds and five turnovers) stood tall, whilst Niamh Cooper managed the three intercepts and three turnovers in the win.

For the Rhinos, Sigrid Burger scored 29 goals from 36 attempts, also collecting five rebounds,. Sienna Rushton (!2 goals from 15 attempts) amassed double-figure goals, whilst goal keeper Tuaine Keenan had two intercepts, three deflections and two turnovers in the loss. Rhea Dixon played a support role at goal attack with eight goals from 13 attempts, and a team-high 13 feeds.

Surrey Storm have the bye next week in Round 6, whilst Leeds Rhinos host Wasps Netball on Sunday afternoon.

  • Team
  • Manchester Thunder
  • Wasps Netball

After a thrilling contest with the Mavericks, Manchester Thunder got back to their brutal best in their second game for Round 5, easily accounting for Wasps Netball by 20 goals at Belle Vue. The Thunder won all four quarters, with the first half being particularly dominant, racing out to a nine-goal quarter time lead, and building upon that to head into the main break with a 38-22 advantage. Though closer in the second half, the Thunder still won both quarters, and came away with the 71-51 victory.

Cardwell was again ridiculous, moving into goal shooter and piling on 47 goals from 51 attempts, as Mvula had the 13 from 18. The pleasant surprise was the move of Metcalf into goal attack, scoring 10 of 12, allowing Lois Pearson (23 feeds) and Emma Rayner (four feeds) to spend time in wing attack. Goal keeper Almond was also impressive in restricting Burger, picking up two intercepts, three deflections, four rebounds and seven turnovers in the win.

Gezelle Allison (27 goals from 36 attempts) topped the scoring, though veteran shooter Rachel Dunn was a deadeye of 20 from 20, and also nine feeds, a rebounds, one intercept, four deflections and three turnovers in a different role to her usual post shooting. Iona Christian produced 25 feeds and three deflections, whilst Josie Huckle stood up in defence with four deflections and three turnovers.

Manchester Thunder have an early game in Round 6, with the four-day turnaround before facing Team Bath on the road, while Wasps travel to First Direct Arena to lock horns with Leeds Rhinos.

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