Netball Superleague: Manchester Thunder win derby, Team Bath stay top

By Jess AndersonBBC Sport
Thunder v Rhinos
Thunder faced Rhinos in the first local derby of the season between the two

Manchester Thunder overcame Superleague newcomers Leeds Rhinos 48-41 in the first 'War of the Roses' derby of the season.

Thunder, who struggled at times to assert their authority, managed to up the tempo in the final quarter to see out the victory.

Head coach Karen Greig said: "It's great to have Leeds in the league and have that derby feeling back."

Unbeaten Team Bath stay top after a 51-29 win over London Pulse.

Loughborough Lightning beat Strathclyde Sirens, who impressed once again, but fell just the wrong side of the 43-38 scoreline.

Celtic Dragons put out their best performance of the season in a tussle with two-time Superleague champions Wasps, but eventually came up short, losing 52-38.

Pulse narrowly missed out to Rhinos in their second match of the round with a dramatic 40-38 defeat.

Bath stay top, Wasps and Lightning win

Bath now have eight wins in eight games after another professional performance against Pulse, who started slowly but were able to force themselves into the game when Bath head coach Anna Stembridge rang the changes.

Pulse managed just eight goals in the opening two quarters as Bath took an impressive 19-goal lead into half-time, thanks to England Roses duo Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth's command of the defensive third.

Stembridge said Guscoth was "outstanding - a couple of rounds ago I thought you could start to see the old Layla coming back".

Guscoth ruptured her Achilles at the 2019 World Cup and has spent the last two years in Australia playing for Adelaide Thunderbirds before returning to her former club Bath for the 2021 season.

Layla Guscoth
Guscoth featured for Bath from 2016-2018 before joining Adelaide Thunderbirds

A stubborn Celtic Dragons pushed Wasps to the final whistle after a surprise opening quarter saw them lead 12-9.

Wasps made hard work of the first half, taking just a two-goal lead into the break, before moving Amy Flanagan to centre and winning the final quarter 18-9, leaving the Welsh franchise still without a win.

Sirens continued to put their mark on the 2021 Superleague season with a tight game against Lightning, who have now won seven matches in a row.

Sirens captain Gia Abernethy said her side consider themselves "a big gun" as they continue to knock on the door of the top four spots.

Saracens Mavericks led from the second quarter to beat Severn Stars 53-36 and reclaim fourth spot in the league after a defensive masterclass from Razia Quashie.

Rhinos came out on top in a tight match against Pulse as England Rose Jade Clarke's experience in mid-court guided them to victory. Rhinos head coach Dan Ryan said it was important to "win uncomfortably".

Game of the week - Thunder 48-41 Rhinos

The arrival of Rhinos into the league sees the return of the Lancashire versus Yorkshire derby - the first since Yorkshire Jets last competed in the Superleague in 2016 - and the two sides went into this match level on points, separated only by goal difference.

Rhinos emerged from the first quarter with a three-goal lead, shrugging off the pressure from Thunder's notoriously relentless attacks - but Amy Carter's introduction at centre and Caroline O'Hanlon's move to wing-attack settled the mid-court and Thunder swung the momentum their way, taking a five-goal lead into half-time.

But Rhinos' Ryan, former assistant coach at Greig's Thunder, reintroduced the defensive partnership of Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan, who limited Thunder's star shooter Joyce Mvula to just one shot in the third quarter - leaving the score poised at 33-33 heading into the final 12 minutes.

A couple of Rhinos mistakes allowed Thunder to capitalise and with Mvula able to find space in the circle, partnered with Eleanor Cardwell's long-range shots, the Manchester side eventually triumphed over their local rivals.

Thunder head coach Greig said: "It was a bit of a rollercoaster, our consistency let us down but we showed that grit today, which has been lacking from us in a couple of games this season."

England Roses head coach Jess Thirlby was courtside in Wakefield to watch the action unfold.

Return to Play

While there has been much to be excited about this season at netball's elite level, Monday sees the introduction of the government's Return to Play scheme and with it the opportunity for women up and down the country to don a bib and return to the courts.

Even the Superleague's biggest stars are excited for players to return to England's most participated women's sport.

Results & fixtures

Round Eight

Sunday, 28 March

Manchester Thunder 48-41 Leeds Rhinos

London Pulse 29-51 Team Bath

Loughborough Lightning 43-38 Strathclyde Sirens

Wasps 52-38 Celtic Dragons

Monday, 29 March

Saracens Mavericks 53-36 Severn Stars

London Pulse 38-40 Leeds Rhinos

Vitality Netball Superleague table 2021
TeamPlayedWonLostDrawForAgainstGoal DifferencePoints
Team Bath880041027213824
Loughborough Lightning871042731211521
Wasps Netball85213723106216
Saracens Mavericks75113182833516
Manchester Thunder75203662808615
Leeds Rhinos8440362367-512
Strathclyde Sirens9342335347-1211
Surrey Storm8260329385-566
London Pulse7160257305-483
Severn Stars7160238344-1063
Celtic Dragons8080280472-1920
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