MATCH REPORT | Saracens Mavericks 56 - 59 Manchester Thunder
A blockbuster Round 5 match-up between Saracens Mavericks and Manchester Thunder lived up to it’s billing as Thunder edged a thriller at the Hertfordshire Sports Village to maintain their own perfect record, and end their opponents, with a 59-56 victory.
Neither team had played a team from last season’s top four, or from this season’s early top four so a test of their top four and title credentials was expected.
And they delivered a pulsating affair that wasn’t decided until the closing seconds when Thunder scored the final three goals to claim all three points.
Thunder edge intense opening quarter
After Loughborough had joined them on 12 points with victory over Strathclyde Sirens on Friday night, both teams knew defeat would see them drop off the relentless early season pace.
Pace was an appropriate word for an opening 15 minutes that saw both teams stay true to their attacking principles.
Going goal-for-goal there was never more than two goals between the them as Ine-Mari Venter and Joyce Mvula underlined their ice-cool prowess under the posts.
After trading an early turnover and an early penalty it was Mavs who eeked out the narrowest of leads, only for Thunder to storm back with the first three-goal run of the game.
A similar pattern emerged as Sasha and Kadeen Corbin looked to have ensured the hosts would end the opening quarter in the ascendency.
But Thunder’s ability to score quickly saw them score three goals to end a frantic opening 15 minutes with a 15-14 advantage.
Visitors extend narrow advantage
Another tense quarter followed but Carolin O’Hanlon’s influence on the game was growing from centre and gradually Thunder fought their way into a four-goal lead.
Roared on by the sell-out crowd, Mavericks pulled their way to within one goal as Venter poured in from distance as well as under the post.
At the other end Eleanor Cardwell was easing the load on Mvula and landed the crucial blow on the buzzer to re-establish Thunder’s three-goal lead.
Mavericks had looked poised to end the half within one but the visitors picked off Corbin’s pass, worked it through the court and Cardwell applied the finishing touch.
Mavs fight back in dramatic quarter
Undaunted by the end of the first-half, a remarkable start to the third quarter, saw Mavericks score six unanswered goals as mistakes crept into the Thunder game.
A three-goal deficit had become a three-goal advantage for the home team when Kadeen Corbin landed from under the post.
Nat Metcalf moved to goal attack as Thunder looked to stem the flow, but Mavericks held onto their advantage with Beth Ecuyer-Dale controlling the tempo and Thunder unable to make inroads until the final minutes of the quarter.
An uncharacteristic miss from Venter opened a window for Thunder to level and finishing the half stronger found themselves back in front heading into the final quarter.
Thunder stay cool to hold off surging Mavs
Mavericks emerged for the final 15 minutes without Kadeen Corbin who suffered a leg injury in a bruising third period
Thunder looked to be pulling away when they opened up a five-goal lead but when Corbin’s replacement Chloe Essam found Venter with just under eight minutes to go the scores were level at 51-51.
Karen Greig brought Mvula back into the action as she sought to seal the win, but every time Thunder looked to be pulling clear a determined Mavericks stayed within touching distance.
It was only in the final seconds that Kerry Almond forced the decisive turnover from which Cardwell was able to score and then consolidate on their own centre pass for the victory
Gilbert Player of the Match - Beth Ecuyer-Dale (Saracens Mavericks)
Mavericks - (GK) Quashie, (GD) Gibson, (WD) Marshall, (C) Ecuyer-Dale, (WA) S Corbin, (GA) K Corbin, (GS) Venter
Thunder - (GK) Almond, (GD) Sanders, (WD) Malcolm, (C) O’Hanlon, (WA) Metcalf, (GA) Cardwell, (GS) Mvula
Karen Greig, Manchester Thunder
“It was a nailbiter! Anyone who was here saw a fantastic game of netball, well contested across the whole 60 minutes and to coach it felt like a game of chess.
“We came out slow in that third quarter and we had to make some changes - thankfully those changes made an impact and we were able to claw it back.
“I am pleased with the girls for that, consistency I am not so happy with. Ultimately we are still making silly errors under pressure, so there are things to work on.
“But overall overall we knew it was going to be tough, Mavericks have been very consistent this year, so we are happy to take the win.”
Kat Ratnapala, Saracens Mavericks
“I cannot take anything away from the squad and that performance - they put their best foot forward.
“I am gutted with the result, you always want to have the win, the points and everything that goes with that but there are lots of positives we can take as well as a lot of learnings.
“Thunder have been a team that we can’t ever break but we had those opportunities to take them today. The confidence is growing win the squad, the belief is there and that is something we have struggled with in the past.
“We are better than our results of fifth and sixth have shown, but we need to put out good performances."