Netball Superleague Grand Final: Manchester Thunder win 57-52 against Wasps

By Denise EvansBBC Sport at the Copper Box Arena
Manchester Thunder players celebrate victory
Manchester Thunder players hug each other after sealing their firs Superleague title in five years

Manchester Thunder won their first Superleague title since 2014 after beating defending champions Wasps 57-52 in the Grand Final at London's Copper Box.

The Black and Yellows came back from behind on several occasions to win their third Superleague crown.

Wasps missed out on their third title in succession, after finishing the regular season top.

Team Bath won the third-place play-off 62-56 against Loughborough Lightning.

Wasps showed their intent from the first whistle while Thunder worked hard to settle and chip away at the lead as the blistering tempo persisted inside a packed-out venue.

Thunder's Northern Ireland captain Caroline O'Hanlon and Wasps' England international Jade Clarke, the opposing centres, were locked in an intense battle, with the former losing her marker to swoop in on a loose Amy Flanagan pass.

It was the catalyst for a period of dominance for Thunder, who took the lead for the first time midway through the second period via a superb long shot from Kathryn Turner.

Wasps shooter Rachel Dunn - named Superleague Player of the Season earlier on Saturday - started to show signs of frustration, with Thunder keeper Kerry Almond suffocating her movement.

The goal keeper was playing her last game for Thunder and her fourth final, after 11 top-flight seasons at the club.

Thunder surrendered their slender two-goal lead at the beginning of the second half and the game went goal-for-goal, with both sides petrified of slipping up in an intense atmosphere.

Black and Yellows shooter Joyce Mvula was having the game of her life, nonchalantly shooting from anywhere in the D, but Wasps' high-line pressing game helped them force a lead once again.

Thunder started to panic and threw away three chances to consolidate turnovers as Wasps pushed on, leading 45-39 at three-quarter-time.

It was Wasps' turn to look over their shoulders when Thunder got the two turnovers they needed in the opening exchanges of the fourth, thanks to excellent work from captain and player of the match Emma Dovey.

Thunder's Mvula was then forced off with a knee injury, but her replacement Ellie Cardwell slotted straight in.

It was a near carbon-copy scenario of when the England defender-turned-shooter entered the fray in the closing stages of the 2012 final, replacing Almond at keeper and producing a series of match-winning intercepts.

Once they overhauled Wasps, Thunder powered through to the final whistle, scoring 19 goals in the final quarter and securing head coach Karen Greig a maiden title.

Manchester Thunder
Thunder players celebrate after their victory in London

Bath finish third

Lightning and Team Bath battled it out in a close contest for third place, as a curtain-raiser for the final.

But it was Bath who held their nerve to power to a 62-56 victory after Lightning had lost a five-goal half-time lead.

However, there was a silver lining for Lightning as coach Sara Bayman was named Coach of the Season in her inaugural term at the helm.

What they said

Karen Greig, Manchester Thunder head coach: "It's amazing. It's hard to put into words - it was a game of ups and downs and what an unbelievable final and worthy of any final across the years.

"It swung from quarter to quarter and it was an intense game and thankfully we were able to hang on to the end.

On Malawi shooter Joyce Mvula's injury: "It was unfortunate for Joyce having to come off as she had a great game.

"We don't quite know what's wrong and she'll have to get a scan but hopefully it's only a tweak of her knee.

"We'll look after her before she goes back to Malawi in a few weeks."

Thunder centre Caroline O'Hanlon: "It's surreal as we were down by so much at different times in the game and I thought 'it's gone' and then we were level again. It was a rollercoaster of a match. We knew we had the attack to break them down and had the confidence in each other."

Thunder shooter Ellie Cardwell: "I am so proud of the heart we showed. Karen Greig asked us as the start of the fourth quarter 'do we want it?' and we were like 'absolutely' and we went out there and showed it."

Wasps shooter Rachel Dunn: "We started strongly then Thunder came out and had the lead when it mattered.

"I thought some of the umpire calls went against me but I don't want to sound sour as Thunder deserved it and you don't always get the calls.

"We've had a great season and had a good run - Thunder were our bogey team this season as they've beaten us three times and they have cards to play all over the court. They are so strong."

Final quarter score breakdown

Q1: 17-12

HT: 27-29

Q3: 45-39

FT: 52-57

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