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R7: Thunder Vs Rhinos

Manchester Thunder tame Leeds Rhinos in netball showcase.

Manchester Thunder triumphed over their roses rivals Leeds Rhinos 69-45 at Netball Manchester Live 2022 at the AO Arena on Saturday. Thunder’s win, achieved in front of a crowd of almost 4,000, cemented the team’s place at the top of the Vitality Netball Superleague and extended their unbeaten run to eight games.

Families and fans of all ages packed into the iconic venue right in the heart of Manchester and were entertained by a double header of matches, with Thunder’s Under-21 side getting the better of their Rhino’s counterparts 59-54 to kickstart an evening of world class sport and entertainment.

A huge roar greeted Thunder as they took to the court and, buoyed by the occasion and the noisy support, the home team dominated the first quarter, taking a 21-8 lead which the visitors never really recovered from. As the match wore on, Rhinos began to show some fatigue after Friday’s tough win over Severn Stars and Thunder looked ever more comfortable, helped by outstanding performances from Gilbert Player of the Match Shadine van der Merwe and shooter Grace Mvula.

Rhinos showed stern resistance despite the scoreline, with their Mancunian captain Jade Clarke leading from the front, but an upset win always seemed out of reach for the Yorkshire side.

Gilbert Player of the Match Shadine van der Merwe said: “Eight wins in a row sounds really good and playing in front of the AO Arena is amazing with all the Thunder fans. It’s so good to play in front of a big crowd because it just brings a different energy to the game.”

“The feeling in this team is just indescribable. It’s such a great environment and the way we play I just always know that the girls have always got my back and I’ve got theirs as well. It’s just great to be in that winning culture. That’s a good feeling going into the rest of the season.”

Manchester Thunder Head Coach Karen Grieg said: “I think we came out like a steam train and that first quarter was unbelievable. Defensively I thought we were phenomenal. Shadine was excellent today in what was only her third game back after a long injury lay-off. I’m not too happy with how we finished the game, though, I think we got a little bit sloppy at the end and that’s just something that we need to work on going forwards.

“It was hard for Rhinos to go back-to-back. They took a great win against Stars and I think they got a little bit tired towards the end, which enabled us to push on. Overall I was just really proud of how our girls performed because they certainly asked questions of us. We go back to the drawing board now because we have a tough game next week against London Pulse, who are riding high. There’s more hard work ahead of us.”

Leeds Rhinos’ Brie Grierson said: “That was really tough. Thunder are a really classy side and they put up a really strong performance against us. We had some great patches but we couldn’t sustain it for the full 60 and they could and unfortunately, the scoreline reflects that. So we’ll go back to training, work on it and we’ll see them again when they come to Leeds.

“These Arena games are amazing. Last week, as a Leeds girl I got to play in the First Direct Arena, something I never thought I would do, so that was something really special and now we got to back that up again here this week by playing at the AO Arena. I just think that’s where the sport needs to go. Playing in sports halls just doesn’t do the game justice anymore so the more teams that we can get into big arenas like this the better.”

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