Match report: Wasps Netball 52-57 Manchester Thunder
Wasps Netball fell just short of a historic third successive league title in a heart-breaking 57-52 loss against Manchester Thunder.
It marks the first season the Black and Golds have missed out on the Vitality Netball Superleague, as they were unable to overcome an impressive Manchester team at the Copper Box Arena.
Mel Mansfield’s side led going into the fourth-quarter but Thunder produced a perfect final 15 minutes to secure their third title and first since 2014.
Mansfield said: “It didn’t quite happen for us today. We played well in quarters one and three but we needed to play better for longer.
“There were huge momentum shifts in the game, we started strongly but Thunder made very few errors and we found it really difficult to win ball.
“I was really pleased after half-time with the response but we made a couple of crucial errors in the final quarter which ended up being really important.
“It’s been a hugely enjoyable season and today didn’t change that, this group is fantastic and they kept battling right to the end.
“We’ve still got an incredible team and set-up at Wasps and we’ll certainly come back fighting next season.”
Fran Williams made an immediate impact for Wasps on the first possession of the game, forcing a turnover and sparking an attack that saw Katie Harris open the scoring for the Black and Golds.
Wasps benefitted from a series of misplaced passes and loose balls as they rushed out to a early four-goal lead.
Both shooting duos stepped up the challenge and put in near-perfect performances in the first-quarter, as the teams went goal-for-goal.
The Black and Golds closed the quarter in fine fashion, with a Hannah Knights’ intercept and Rachel Dunn goal, to lead by five after 15 minutes.
Thunder looked composed at the start of the second-quarter and scored through Joyce Mvula after a calculated build-up.
Wasps built their lead to six but Manchester came roaring back, capitalising on errors and penalty calls against Mansfield’s side and with three minutes to play in the half Thunder took the lead, as the Wasps tried to force the attack at the other end.
Dunn scored on the buzzer but it did not count as time ran out and Karen Greig’s side led at half-time. Thunder scored first in the third-quarter but Wasps replied immediately through Harris. Harris continued to star as her side moved back into the lead.
Williams kept the momentum with Wasps due to a perfectly timed turnover, as the Black and Golds shooters found their rhythm and took control.
Dunn scored again to close a fantastic third-quarter for Wasps and extend their advantage to six. Wasps opened the final quarter with a series of errors and turnovers, allowing Thunder to rein in the deficit.
The sides were soon level, with Williams and Knights unable to halt their opponents’ attack.
Thunder took the lead mid-way through the quarter and never looked back, proving clinical offensively and disruptive defensively – running out 57-52 winners.
Player of the match: Emma Dovey
Q1: 17-12 Q2: 27-29 Q3: 45-39 Q4: 52-57
Wasps starting seven: GK Hannah Knights; GD Fran Williams; WD Amy Flanagan; C Jade Clarke; WA Bongi Msomi; GA Katie Harris; GS Rachel Dunn
Thunder starting seven: GK Kerry Almond; GD Emma Dovey; WD Laura Malcolm; C Caroline O’Hanlon; WA Laura Malcolm; GA Kathryn Turner; GS Joyce Mvula