Netball Superleague: Wasps beat Loughborough Lightning in Grand Final

Wasps celebrate their Superleague title win
Wasps were one of three new franchises competing in the 2017 Superleague

Wasps have won the Superleague title in their debut season, beating Loughborough Lightning 55-51 in Sunday's Grand Final in Birmingham.

Coventry-based Wasps were one of three new franchises this season.

They led by one goal at the start of the final quarter, having dominated Loughborough in the mid-court.

Their attacking combination of Rachel Dunn and Natalie Haythornthwaite proved too strong for regular-season winners Loughborough.

Last year's beaten finalists Manchester Thunder defeated Team Bath 56-48 in the third-place play-off.

Greenway makes it three

It was first against second in the season finale, with both teams having secured easy victories in their semi-finals on Saturday.

Wasps, the only team to beat Loughborough in the regular season, were slow to find their rhythm in attack but pegged Lightning back to lead by one goal after the first quarter.

Their high press in the mid-court caused Loughborough problems and calm shooting from Dunn helped Wasps maintain their narrow lead at half-time.

Dunn, who won the title last year with Surrey Storm, continued to get the better of goal keeper Jo Trip in the circle, but crucial turnovers in defence from Vicky Oyesola and Beth Cobden kept Lightning in the game.

Wasps began the final quarter with a one-goal advantage and never looked like losing as the usually unflappable Loughborough were rattled by their opponents' strong defence.

Karen Atkinson's Loughborough side faltered in their attempt to become the first regular-season winners to lift the title.

Superleague champions
2017 - Wasps2011 - Hertfordshire Mavericks
2016 - Surrey Storm2010 - Team Bath
2015 - Surrey Storm2009 - Team Bath
2014 - Manchester Thunder2008 - Hertfordshire Mavericks
2013 - Team Bath2007 - Team Bath
2012 - Northern Thunder (now Manchester Thunder)2006 - Team Bath

Wasps director of netball and head coach Tamsin Greenway played a full game at wing-attack - having retired in 2015.

The former England international has now won three consecutive titles, having led Surrey Storm to back-to-back victories in 2015 and 2016.

She said: "This one is pretty special. I don't usually get emotional but the last 10 months has been absolute madness.

"To get on court, to prove I can still do it and to have the team accept me play was pretty special.

"Everyone just looked at the player list and said 'look at them they've taken all the players' but there was so much more to it than that. Getting the culture right was huge.

"We had new staff, a new stadium and taking on the Wasps name was a lot more pressure than I realised. It's pretty special to do that."

Afterwards, Greenway said she would not play again next season. "That's me done," she added. "I loved it but it's time for me to step away."

Thunder take bronze

Manchester Thunder v Team Bath
Manchester Thunder beat Team Bath 56-48 to claim third place

After a season of rebuilding for Manchester Thunder, Superleague player of the year and captain Emma Dovey led her side to a third-place finish with victory over Team Bath.

Thunder pulled away from Bath in the third quarter as Malawi goal shooter Joyce Mvula put in a commanding performance against a relentless Team Bath defence.

Director of netball Karen Greig said: "I'm really happy with this result and we've finished a place higher than any of us thought or dreamed of at the start of the season.

"We didn't come out fighting on Saturday, and although there were flashes of real brilliance, I think we lacked that passion we showed today.

"But we go home with a bronze medal around our necks and it is something we can all be proud of."