#nsl2024 Lightning 57 – Thunder 61

Round 12 of the Netball Super League provided a game all netball fans had been waiting for.

Vic Burgess named an unchanged starting seven for Lightning’s pursuit to take the top spot in the league table.

The first turnover of the game went Lightning’s way as Rhea Dixon plucked the ball out of the air from a Thunder centre pass much to the Lightning fan’s delight as the noise erupted in the Sir David Wallace Arena. A nervy Thunder start resulted in a handful of unforced errors. Tight defensive marking from Alice Harvey and Nicola Smith forced a loose pass and turned over possession for Lightning to extend their lead to four.

Thunder clawed back the deficit as a handful of errors crept in for Lightning, with the former capitalising on every attacking opportunity to bring the scores back level. A fast-paced first quarter ended with the scores levelled at 15-15 at the interval.

End of Q1: Loughborough Lightning 15 – 15 Manchester Thunder

It was an edgy start to the second quarter, with both sides keen to restrict errors. Thunder defence around the circle edge tightened up, making it a real test for Lightning. However, some Rhea Dixon flare and a trademark layup from Mary Cholhok kept Lightning competitive as the game continued to go goal-for-goal.

Vic Burgess opted to switch up in defence, with Annabel Roddy entering the court at goal defence in place of Nicola Smith. A long hopeful ball from Thunder flew off court and allowed Lighting to go ahead. Some well-worked centre-court combinations between captain Nat Panagarry and Rhea Dixon fed Mary Cholhok under the post who made no mistake.

End of Q2: Loughborough Lightning 30 – 29 Manchester Thunder

The third quarter started fast, with both teams applying pressure to force errors through the court. The Thunder defensive circle doubled up on Mary Cholhok, meaning Lightning had to be perfectly accurate with their feeds. Thunder’s Lois Pearson continued to shoot at 100% accuracy, which shifted momentum in Thunder’s favour as they maintained a 2-goal lead.

A loose Thunder CP flew further than Nat Metcalf’s reach and allowed Lightning to close the gap, Mary Cholhok happily obliged to shift the momentum back. A spectacular Alice Harvey interception was one of the highlights from the quarter however a tired, loose Lightning centre pass resulted in Thunder working combinations to edge in front.

An uncompromising final 5 minutes by Thunder gave them the upper hand heading into an exciting final quarter.

End of Q3: Loughborough Lightning 43 – 46 Manchester Thunder

The Lightning crowd provided a lift, particularly in defence, as an uncharacteristically short shot by Lois Pearson was snatched by Alice Harvey and sent up-court to Mary who initiated the comeback for the African Violet. Lightning pegged Thunder back, drawing things level with 10 minutes left on the clock. However, tides turned yet again as a series of pressure, and a loose ball, flung forward by Roddy was intercepted and Thunder ran away to extend their lead.

Just as Lightning began to look threatening, an unbelievable bit of defending by Shadine Van Der Merwe shut down the attack and kept the gap between themselves and Lightning to three goals. Vic Burgess switched up the Lightning defensive combination, with Nicola Smith returning to court at GK, making way for Alice Harvey. Despite a tremendous effort, Thunder managed to thwart Lightning’s efforts to claw the score back and took the points on this occasion.

End of Q4: Loughborough Lightning 57 – 61 Manchester Thunder

Thunder’s Imogen Allison was named the Kissimmee POTM following a relentless mid-court performance. Long Tall Sally POTM was awarded to Beth Cobden.

Lightning Head Coach Vic Burgess said:
“We looked hesitant on the ball as we moved it through the court. It’s something we’ve been really good at all season, throughout the game you could feel the momentum shift between the teams across all four quarters. Going into Bath, next week we’re going to work on different variety of ways to win ball back”.

Lightning will face Team Bath in round 13 of the NSL on Friday 10th May.

Starting line-up:  
GS: Mary Cholhok  
GA: Rhea Dixon
WA: Hannah Joseph  
C: Nat Panagarry  
WD: Beth Cobden 
GD: Nicola Smith 
GK: Alice Harvey 

IMG: Tara St Clair

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