RESULT: Team Bath 53 Manchester Thunder 43
It was the tie of the Netball Superleague so far with defending champions Manchester Thunder facing four times champions Team Bath in the city of the roman spa. The last time the teams met was in Phase One when Bath were the victors by a solitary goal, but this time a place in the Superleague Showdown was at stake.
Thunder started notoriously slowly and Bath took an early five goal lead 6-1, with feeders Laura Malcolm and Rachel Henry struggling to find shooters Kathryn Turner and Janelle Lawson. There were some uncharacteristic unforced errors by Thunder but as the quarter ticked on they found some form pulling Bath back to within two goals at 10-8. Lawson was pulled for three seconds under pressure from Stacey Francis and Bath went into the half time break with the score at 14-9.
Enter captain Sara Bayman, a former Bath player, who came on at wing defence with Beth Cobden moving to wing attack. Bayman was on a mission against her old team and she was influential in first of all matching up in the physical contest of the match and secondly driving the Thunder attack forward. She was ably backed up with her vice-captain Emma Dovey who was starting to pick up some turnover and giving Pam Cookey a hard day at the office. With shooter Lawson starting to come into the game she shot to level the game for the first time at 16 all.
It became a goal for goal game, until Turner was pulled for contact and Bath were back on a roll. Francis was allowed to take the ball off Lawson as she shot, rattling the Thunder team who couldn’t quite pull back the lead Bath had created. At half time Bath were 25-22 to the good and Thunder needed to find another gear if they were to take the lead for the first time in the game.
The only change at the half time break was a switch in the Bath centre court with Mia Ritchie and Serena Guthrie swopping patches. Again it was a goal for goal start until Guthrie started to have an influence in the game, while Sam Cook was having the game of her life at goal keeper eating up several high balls put up to the Thunder shooters. With the scores at 33-26 Thunder had an injury time out for Turner who had to leave the court, Krista Enziano came on at goal shooter with Lawson moving out to goal attack.
Bath took the game out to a ten goal lead with great work in the circle from Cookey and Corbin, Thunder were doing their best to stay in contention and managed to claw a couple back and looked to be on a roll, but the whistle went leaving just one quarter and an enormous ask for Tracey Neville’s side, trailing 39-31.
In a final fling Neville made many changes, 16 year old Alice Travis came on at goal shooter, Henry returned to wing attack, Bayman and Malcolm swopped patches while Eleanor Cardwell came on at goal defence with Dovey moving back to goal keeper. It was a great battle in the centre with England team mates Bayman and Guthrie battling as the England selectors looked on from the side lines. But with Cook still in fine form as Thunder looked for short cuts into the circle Bath edged out to a ten goal lead and finished at 53-43 with a new champion to be crowned for the Netball Superleague.
pictures credited to Mike Greenwood
Head Coach Tracey Neville commented: “We just weren’t good enough on the night, there were too many unforced errors and you get punished for these against a side the quality of Team Bath. It has been a long season with many ups and downs in the Thunder camp but we have a fantastic squad who make it all worthwhile.”
“On behalf of Manchester Thunder I would like to thank the players, staff, volunteers, fans and everyone involved with the franchise, plus all involved from England Netball including umpires, and particularly Superleague General Manager Mike Watson. We look forward to the challenge again next season”
Bath now move into the Netball Superleague Showdown next Saturday and play the winner of Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm. You can still buy tickets at: https://www.ticketline.co.uk/order/tickets/13282064/netball-superleague-showdown-grand-final-university-of-worcester-arena-2013-05-25-19-00-00
Team Bath: GS K Corbin, GA P Cookey, WA A Francis, C M Ritchie, WD S Guthrie, GD S Francis, GK S Cook
Bench: Trounce, Masterson, Fletcher,
Manchester Thunder: GS J Lawson, GA K Turner, WA R Henry, C L Malcolm, WD B Cobden, GD E Dovey, GK K Almond
Bench: Bayman, Cardwell, Enziano, Holt, Travis