Manchester Thunder edge out reigning champions Wasps in Netball Superleague Grand Final

Fiona Tomas
Emma Dovey of Manchester Thunder lifts the Superleague trophy - Getty Images Europe

Manchester Thunder 57 Wasps 52

Manchester Thunder ended a five-year wait to reclaim the Superleague netball title and crush Wasps’ hopes of achieving an unprecedented consecutive championship treble.

Karen Greig’s outfit overcame a six-goal deficit en route to securing a dramatic 57-52 victory, capitalising upon a palpable wave of netball fever heading into next month’s World Cup in Liverpool.

Wasps had twice fallen at the hands of Thunder during the regular season, but failed in their mission to sting their opponents with poignant revenge.  

Unlike the cagey opening to their semi-final last week, the reigning champions showed no nerves early on and dictated their trademark style from the off, punctuated by devious dummy passes as Thunder chased all but shadows under the bright lights of a packed Copper Box arena.

But the Yellow and Blacks crept back in the second quarter to level at 23-23 - helped by a crucial interception from captain Emma Dovey - before leading 29-27 at the break.

Two steals in quick succession from keeper Hannah Knights and Bongi Msomi prompted ferocious screams of approval from Wasps spectators, who watched their side pull back a 45-39 lead by the end of the third.

Saturday’s season climax was the last opportunity for some on the court to stake their claim for a spot in next month’s World Cup.  

Karen Greig’s outfit overcame a six-goal deficit en route to securing a dramatic 57-52 victory Credit: GETTY IMAGES

At goal defence, 21-year-old Fran Williams, who broke into England’s senior squad last year, outperformed her youth in a suitable match up with Dovey to provide Tracey Neville food for thought ahead of her final Red Roses squad announcement, which will be revealed on Thursday.

In truth, there was little to separate these sides, but Wasps were tasked with defending another six-goal lead heading into a tense final quarter and with less than seven minutes remaining, it was all level at 48-48.

Thunder shooter Joyce Mvulva exited the court with eight minutes left on the clock through injury, but the pause in play did little to disrupt the Mancunian outfit’s fluid rhythm and went on to establish a 52-49 lead in the dying moments, which they would not relinquish.

In her final appearance for Thunder, goalkeeper Kerry Almond did enough to hamper Rachel Dunn in a crucial moment as the veteran Red Rose looked to compose proceedings at the death.

Joyce Mvulva departed with injury, but the Thunder would not be denied Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The final horn sent yellow and black fans into ecstasy thanks to Ellie Cardwell, who produced a sublime eight-minute performance when she came on to replace Mvulva and heroically play her part in a final quarter which saw a determined Thunder grab 18 goals.

“To be honest, this is what we’ve practised all season, so I actually didn’t feel the pressure,” said Caldwell.

“I thought, I’ve got eight minutes, why can’t I just go out there and do my job?

“I’m not in the starting seven - so that’s the opportunity I had to take.

“It wasn’t that easy, but you just have to think you know what you’re doing.

“It feels ridiculous, I was just screaming for the ball. It feels absolutely fantastic, I’m so proud of every single one of them.

“Karen asked us before the start of that last quarter if we wanted it, and we were all said ‘absolutely.’”