Thunder record third win in a row in close battle with Mavericks
Manchester Thunder edged out Hertfordshire Mavericks in a bruising encounter at the Thunderdome.
Even at this early stage of the season, this clash had turned into a must win for both sides, who were unbeaten heading into the game.
Mavericks, arguably the best Superleague team on paper, have an England player in their ranks for every area of the court.
Player of the match Laura Malcolm said: “It always feels like goal for goal with Mavericks and having to keep checking the score because it always felt like we were close. “I'm happy with my performance today. There's definitely some things that didn't work for us today and we'll have to work on those in training.”
Thunder came out of the blocks the hungrier team, powering to a six-goal lead in the opening five minutes.
Keeper Kerry Almond, solid in the opening two games of the season, continued her good form to produce a string of interceptions.
Thunder moved the ball through the court at speed with Mavericks unable to stall Sara Bayman, Malcolm and Chelsea Pitman's fluid attacking play.
A series of breaks in play and a Mavericks time out helped them gain some composure and they scored three without reply to bring the score to 16-12 at the start of the second quarter.
Thunder refused to surrender any more of their lead and kept to their attacking game-plan, with Turner and Housby netting combination of near post and long shots. Almond and Emma Dovey 's defensive pressure was starting to frustrate Mavericks, with the black and purples struggling to penetrate the shooting circle.
Thunder's intensity didn't drop at the start of the third but Mavericks upped there's and it became an open game.
Mavericks scored four on the bounce for the first time in the game and could sniff some vulnerability in Thunder's possession. It was a low-scoring quarter, with tempers on court bubbling over following a number of contact calls and crossed words between the sides.
Superb patience from Thunder around the shooting circle was rewarded with an audacious pass from Turner to a waiting Helen Housby who duly slotted home under the post. Krista Enziano's player of the match performance last time out against Team Bath earned her court time in the final quarter.
England winger Malcolm put in a shift right to the buzzer, leaping to intercept stray Mavericks passes at regular intervals throughout. Hertfordshire keeper Hutchinson was keeping an out-of-sorts Enziano quiet and the game teetered out in the closing minutes.
It was a satisfactory win from Thunder, but not vintage and they will surely look to iron out some handling errors ahead of their battle of the rose clash with Yorkshire Jets in Leeds on Friday.
By Denise Evans
By Denise Evans