Top of the table Manchester Thunder suffered their first defeat of the Vitality Superleague season at the hands of a persistent Loughborough Lightning.
Both Thunder and Lightning faced a tough opening quarter as neither team were able to break the deadlock. Each side struggled to turn over the ball effectively resulting in a stalemate heading into the second quarter.
Thunder managed to edge a lead in the second quarter after some hard work and resilience in the face of a dogged Lightning. Natalie Panagarry posed a real threat to Thunder’s system in the WD position, and Mary Nubas Cholhok was unstoppable at GS.
Some impressive shooting was on display at Belle Vue, but Mvula appeared frustrated as she struggled to find space thanks to tireless defending from both Keenan and Oyesola.
Thunder managed to extend a four goal lead but Lightning were tenacious and brought it to within two before the buzzer sounded for half time.
The changes came thick and fast for Thunder as the second half got underway, with Ellie Cardwell entering the mix at GA and Laura Malcolm coming in at WD.
Head Coach Karen Greig brought in Paige Kindred for a brief spell and switched around the defence in an attempt to quell the waves of Lightning attack.
Lightning were able to establish a lead as the third quarter drew to a close, handing Thunder a difficult task in the final quarter.
Lightning stuck to their guns and made no changes in the last quarter, whereas Greig opted to move the players around the positions and experiment with different combinations.
It was a tough final quarter, both sides showed signs of frustration but also of determination. Thunder got to within 1, and had opportunities to equal the score line as the last quarter played out, but Lightning managed to hold their nerve.
Lightning stuck to their game plan and as time ebbed away the chances of a Thunder comeback grew smaller and smaller, and the away side managed to pull away to get a deserved 60-65 win.
Greig was disappointed with the performance but hopes the squad can learn from the loss:
"Over all the performance wasn’t good enough but, if you don’t lose you don’t learn, we can take a lot from that. Credit to Loughborough, they ran our attack and we didn’t adapt at times.
We had opportunities in the fourth to draw level and it was a bit of a sucker punch, ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be.”
On her changes:
“They were only two up and it was going goal for goal and it was a case of, something needs to change. We needed a more defensive line to turn over ball a bit earlier. Ultimately it didn’t work but sometimes that happens.”
Loughborough Lightning Director of Netball, and Netball Nation co-host, Sara Bayman will give her reaction to the match on this week's Netball Nation episode, which will be available to download on Thursday 21st February.
The result sees Thunder drop to third in the Vitality Superleague table, and Loughborough Lightning move up to sixth spot.
Both teams are on the road in round 7, with Lightning facing an in-form Surrey Storm on Sky Sports, and Manchester Thunder will be taking on Celtic Dragons, who can certainly prove a threat to any side on their day.
By Kate Lightfoot