Thunder 68-48 Dragons
Manchester Thunder ground out a win over Celtic Dragons at The Thunderdome.
The Black and Yellows were simply brilliant and slick in patches but equally disappointing in their decision-making and composure throughout the game.
“It was frustrating,” head coach Karen Greig said.
“Dragons obviously came out with a game plan tonight and they really challenged us well.
“But I thought we were very inconsistent and we keep saying that we have flashes of brilliance but some of our decisions were poor and we didn’t reward ourselves in attack after the hard work that we’d done in defence.
“But then in then I don’t think we were turning over enough ball, either. To be able to make it count.”
Thunder took a while to find their groove, but once they did, it was a show of blistering pace, especially in attack.
Dragons were competitive and matched their hosts across court for the opening few minutes, but Thunder were ruthless when they won turnover, and Liana Loeta was displaying all of her experience and trickery to bamboozle Dragons with her passing.
Mvula worked out her defender and began to find space as the quarter wore on, as Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond started to build a wall in defence.
Coach Greig switched things up in the second period, bringing on the fresh legs of Beccy Hoult, giving an impressive Leota a well-earned rest and Bea Skinsgley entered the game at wing defence.
Thunder retained a useful level of control, stretching their lead to 14 by half time, looking dangerous in attack and solid in defence.
But there were some patchy periods, though, and Greig will have asked her players for more composure at the break.
Leota and Carter returned for the third quarter, while Skingley moved to goal defence, Dovey slapped on the goal keeper bib. Dani Bloomfield also took to the court and the changes seemed to disrupt Thunder’s flow for the opening moments of the second half.
Dragons briefly took heart from it but Thunder soon found their form again and pushed on.
However, Dragons, bouyed by their loud and proud away support, were breathing fire as they enjoyed a period of good play, frustrating Thunder and ticking over their own score.
Thunder finished the quarter strongly, with the return of Almond to the court at keeper steadying the ship.
With goal average a real possibility to determine final placings in the Superleague table, extending the lead will have been top of the agenda at the quarter-time breather.
And it certainly appeared to be the case with Thunder’s brutal start to the final quarter, as Dragons started to show a little fatigue.
But Dragons battled and called on all of their reserves, while errors started to creep into Thunder’s game and the home side will be frustrated with their inconsistency as the game closed out.
Thunder now travel to Surrey Storm on Saturday, with the chance to guarantee a spot in the play-offs at stake.
Player of the Match: Liana Leota