Manchester Thunder put in an assured performance against Surrey Storm to secure a 66-58 victory at the Thunderdome.
The Black and Yellows led from the start but didn’t have it wholly their own way, with Storm snapping at their heels for most of the first quarter. However, they still managed to force a healthy first half lead and never looked like giving it up after the break, after gradually eking out the last of Storm’s fight.
Coach Karen Greig liked what she saw from the outset, especially from the defence. “We set the tone really early. I asked the girls to go out and play hard from the first whistle, something which has alluded them in the last few games," she said. “We’re a few games in now and have some great combinations out there, that weren’t quite there when we first played Storm. They are building as a unit in defence and we made Storm play back up the court. The couple of turnovers in the first quarter were key and Emma Dovey had a great game. I think having Megan Craig taken off shows what a great defensive unit we have.
Goal attack Kathryn Turner’s superb form continued in this game, with her mature and controlled performance tonight securing her the Player of the Match award. Greig added: “Kathryn controlled that shooting end so well and she has a really good partnership with Joyce Mvula now. Joyce did a great job in keeping Naida Hutchinson busy which gave Kathryn space and she dominated in and around the circle.”
It was a cagey start to the game between these two great rivals but it was Thunder who started to take charge midway through the first quarter.
A period of five minutes without a goal from either side slowed down the tempo but thanks to relentless defensive pressure from Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey, Storm's resolve started to crack. It buoyed the team and the attack started to reward the defensive efforts with some slick play. Liana Leota was producing some audacious moments as birthday girl Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner were keeping their own shooting tallies ticking over in some style.
Gabby Marshall was quietly effective and key to keeping Thunder composed. It resulted in a relatively dominant second quarter for the Black and Yellows, as the duel between Mvula and Naida Hutchinson heated up, while Almond and Megan Craig were constantly trying to work each other out. But Storm’s intensity did not drop and they were still having plenty of success in patches, offering up a lip-licking second half for the packed Thunderdome.
Storm came out revitalised after the break and pulled the scores back to within eight. The match also continued to be physical and intense, with a number of cautions handed out by the umpires to players on both sides. Thunder were starting to find space a lot easier to come by as they sapped out the last of Storm's energy. The comfortable 10+-goal lead in the final quarter allowed Greig to make changes, including Paige Kindred (replacing Dovey) taking to court for her first appearance of the season.
Sophie Morgan entered the game at centre, while Beccy Hoult came on at wing attack, with Gabby Marshall and Liana Leota taking a well earned break on the bench. There were instances of real quality netball from both teams throughout, in what was a competitive and pulsating game, despite what the scoreline suggests.
But Thunder’s shooters really let loose in the second half, with one example of Turner lofting a gorgeous, looping long pass to Hoult, who switched the ball to Mvula, who then scored an impressive circle-edge chance.
The Black and Yellows are now unbeaten in seven and will hope to extend their winning run when they travel to Glasgow on Bank Holiday Monday to take on Sirens.
Thunder starting 7 to take on @SurreyStorm: GK Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C Marshall, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula #ThuvSto
Quarter score breakdown:
Photos by Mark Pritchard
Report by Denise Evans
Report by Denise Evans