The defending champions, who had gone through the regular season unbeaten, had no answer to Mavericks’ power and speed. It was not the fairytale ending for the club or the record-breaking 4,100-strong crowd at the Manchester Arena, which was the highest ever for a domestic netball match in the north. They must now travel to London’s Copperbox to fight it out for third place with ‘Roses Rivals’ Yorkshire Jets on Saturday.
Mavericks will meet Surrey Storm in a rematch of record-breaking London Live event at Olympic Park, after they saw off Jets 76-60 in the other semi final.
A desolate Thunder captain Sara Bayman said post-match: “To go unbeaten through the season and lose the game that matters is pretty soul destroying but we didn’t play well enough. We can’t turn round and say Mavericks didn’t deserve it today, because they did. I would love to play at the arena again. We walked out of the changing rooms and the noise was incredible. I don’t think we expected it to be as good as it was and the Manchester public come out in force for sporting events and today was not different. We feel disappointed to not seal this event with a victory and for the fans, but hopefully we put on a good enough game for them to see and to come again.”
Coach Tracey Neville was particularly scathing of her shooters after the game but was full of praise for a Mavericks side that won against all the odds. “I think that performance has been coming in the last few weeks and you get found out by an experienced team. Mavericks played their best netball and beat us. Frankly, we didn’t deserve to win that game. Our shooting circle decided to play and not play, missed shots by Helen Housby and not wanting the ball by Kathryn Turner. If they want to play in these sorts of arenas then they need to step up their play,” she said.
After all the lights and fanfare, it was straight to business for Thunder, with Housby settling any early nerves with a tidy shot under the post. But Mavericks showed their intent to mark tight and suffocate Thunder’s attack from the first centre pass. Thunder had to be patient with their feeds into the shooters, with Naida Hutchinson and Layla Guscoth at their imperious best. Both Mavericks defenders won a call up to the England squad on the back of their from in the Superleague and not many would question that with their performance again today. Sasha Corbin’s body-blow on Sara Bayman was the first of many feisty moments in a cagey first quarter. The girls in purple and black shaded it, heading into the break 11-13.
Thunder started the second period sluggishly, and Mavericks were in no mood to wait around for their opposition to catch up. Aussie wing attack Chelsea Pitman was beginning to show her blistering form from the start of the season, firing in some pin-point feeds to Housby’s outstretched fingertips. But her impact on the game, just like a number of others, drifted in and out of the game.
Mavericks again found themselves with a three-goal cushion, but were unable to extend it when a hopeful Kadeen Corbin feed sailed right out of court. However, Thunder’s play was still littered with errors and they were fortunate to keep in touch.
Space in the centre court continued to elude the home side and Mavericks’ game-plan was working. Tracey Neville brought on Jodie Gibson for a relatively ineffective Emma Dovey, in a bid to bring more physicality to Thunder’s defence for the second half. Thunder’s inability to consolidate their turnovers was the story of their game as despite colossal keeper Kerry Almond’s countless intercepts, Thunder’s attacking play continued to disappoint at the end of the third.
Despite unbearable tension, Mavericks were playing out of their skin and knew that they were just one quarter away from an emphatic victory. The longer the score stayed level, the more the pressure mounted on Thunder to force a lead but it never came.
Instead, Mavericks powered into a five-goal lead, and with less than three minutes on the clock, the Thunder players were broken and outplayed.
Story from Thunder website.
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