Manchester Thunder inflict first Netball Superleague defeat on Herts Mavericks

PUBLISHED: 22:00 27 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:33 29 February 2016

Sammy Wallace on the attack. Picture by Courtney Ferns

Sammy Wallace on the attack. Picture by Courtney Ferns

Archant

In the battle of Netball Superleague’s two remaining unbeaten sides at Hertfordshire Sports Village, a slick Manchester Thunder fought back from a half-time deficit to beat Herts Mavericks 57-48 tonight (Saturday).

In-form youngster George Fisher produced another fine shooting performance on her first start for the franchise, racking up statistics of 86 per cent accuracy in the opening half, as the lively Mavericks held off Thunder to lead by two points at the break.

With a fatigued Fisher leaving the court at the interval though, a relieved Manchester showed the true form that has seen them beat Team Northumbria, Team Bath, Celtic Dragons and, most recently, Loughborough Lightning, overtaking the hosts in the third quarter to enter the final period in front.

England shooter Helen Housby in particular was in stunning form, landing most opportunities that came her way.

Try as they might, Mavericks could not gain turn around the deficit and thus tasted defeat, an unfamiliar sensation after such a strong beginning to this Superleague campaign.

As well as Fisher, top of the Superleague shooting accuracy statistics with 93 per cent prior to the game, taking her place among the starting seven, captain Layla Guscoth returned to the line-up having missed last Monday’s 51-38 win over winless Yorkshire Jets.

Thunder also made two alterations from their round four victory over Lightning; Gabs Marshall and Natalie Haythornthwaite made way for Laura Malcolm and Ellie Cardwell.

Goal attack Fisher showed no sign of nerves in the opening moments, floating shots into the net with perfect regularity. Sam Wallace was also sharp as Mavericks stormed into an early lead.

That advantage momentarily evaporated as Housby levelled the scores at 6-6 but the home side were not to overawed.

However, the impressive Fisher bagged four quick-fire goals to put Mavericks ahead. She even showed she’s more than just shooting, supplying Wallace from wide right for a superbly-taken effort and moving the score onto 11-8 before the Purples raced in 15-8 to the good at the quarter’s end.

Thunder, led by England skipper Sara Bayman, showed a greater intensity at the start of the second quarter and with hot-shot Housby and industrious Cardwell, they cut their deficit to 26-24 at half-time. The Wallace and Fisher connection was still in full flow though and their shooting was enough to keep Mavericks just in front.

Sophie Hankin replaced Fisher at goal attack at the break, a move that certainly would have pleased Thunder boss Dan Ryan.

The former’s first involvement was a long shot that sailed into the net to move the score to 27-24 but Thunder soon regained their strong finish to the second quarter and five minutes into the third quarter, Housby finished another good move to give the visitors the lead for the first time at 30-29.

From there, Thunder did not look back and although the hosts delivered a short comeback to move to within one point of Manchester, at the end of the quarter they were holding out at 40-37.

With Sam Bird looking to rotate, Summer Artman entered the fold in the final quarter and, backed by the raucous crowd, she settled well and battled hard. Mavericks pressed and some excellent defence kept them in the game but despite Wallace and Hankin’s best efforts in the D, the Northerners took the game and with it, the home side’s unbeaten record. A little salvation after the University of Hertfordshire-based side dramatically disposed of Thunder in last season’s Superleague semi-finals.

Mavericks, who remain second in the table on points difference despite the loss, travel to third-placed Team Bath on Monday night looking to bounce back from this first defeat.

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