It was a frantic start from both teams in Round 7 of the Vitality Netball Superleague as both sides made basic errors off their own centre pass in the first few minutes of the contest. This made for an exciting opener as both teams kept on one another’s toes. Suzy Drane was in flying form as she looked to expose space around the court. Indeed, Dragons took a lead in the quarter with a Dee Bolakoro interception. However, the visitors soon cut out the errors and while the Dragons looked to maintain a fast tempo, their inaccuracies cut deep in the quarter and Thunder took a handsome eight-goal lead.
The Dragons faithful might have been fearful as the second quarter got underway, with Manchester Thunder in a ruthless mood following their below par loss to Loughborough in Round 6. Thunder did make a strong start, with WA Liana Leota showing bags of pace around Dragons circle. However, Dragons tightened up in defence and Lucy Howells took to court at WD to inject some extra energy. The crowd really picked up to spur the players on and Kyra, Chelsea and Kalifa worked well in sharing the attacking load, with some great movement around the circle.
The third quarter saw much of the same – a more focused and clinical Dragons squad effort. Kalifa was industrious both in front of goal and in setting up Chelsea Lewis for some nice scores. Meanwhile, Dee and Stacian swapped positions and the Dragons’ flying Fijian was able to do a good job of disrupting what was on the whole a very clinical Thunder drive. Dragons were able to sneak within 9 of the northern franchise before a lack of focus in the final 60 seconds saw Thunder take a late couple of goals.
Fans were overjoyed to see Bethan Dyke return to court at the start of the fourth quarter, her first foray into elite netball since an ACL injury cut short her 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign. However, that proved to be the high water mark for Dragons in the fourth as they completely switched off following a raft of substitutions. It was already a very high scoring game, but Thunder really went for it in the last ten minutes and recorded a quarter-century for their troubles. Thunder shooter, Joyce Mvula was awarded Player of the Match by the home side and it was an accolade she justly earned.
Dragons must now re-group for a trip to the resurgent Surrey Storm on Saturday 2 March.
Celtic Dragons: C Lewis, K McCollin (Captain), S Drane, K Jones, C Elsley, D Bolakoro and S Facey. Replacements: B Dyke, L Howells, L Herdman, A Tyrrell and E Nawele.
Manchester Thunder: J Mvula, K Turner, L Leota, A Carter, L Malcolm, E Dovey and K Almond Replacements: R Airey, E Cardwell, P Kindred, M McAndrew and C O’Hanlon.
Quarter Scores: 13-21 (13-21); 20-21 (33-42) 15-16 (48-58) 8-25 (56-83)