Loughborough Lightning are now level on points at the top of The Co-operative Netball Superleague after a decisive 61-39 win over Leeds Carnegie away on Saturday (22 November).
Lightning built on an early lead to protect their undefeated record this season and match Team Bath’s eight league points Bath remain ahead with a greater points difference.
“As expected this was a hard fought contest,” said player-coach Olivia Murphy. “Leeds made Lightning work hard, but patience and constant movement from our attackers opened up the court. Alex [Kirk] had a great performance against her old side.
“We’ve now got a touch run of fixtures against top five teams between now and Christmas, which will provide a marker for how far we’ve come this season.”
The weekend’s Leeds encounter was fast paced and physical from the first whistle. Lightning scored the opening two goals but couldn’t quite pull away, as Leeds converted their opportunities. The first quarter ended 16-11 in favour of Lightning.
In the second quarter SJ O’Sullivan replaced Natasha Hampshire at wing attack and Lightning showed more patience and started to control the pace throughout the court. Leeds continued to make the most of their reduced visits to the circle, Loughborough’s defence lifting their work rate to keep the home side’s score at 10 to their 12. The score reached 28-21 at half time.
Lightning introduced changes to the attack for the third quarter with former Leeds player Alex Kirk coming on at goal attack, Jo Harten moving to goal shooter, and Hampshire returning at wing attack. A patient approach, moving the ball around the goal third, paid off and the shooters were rewarded with some clean balls near to the post. However, Leeds shooters were also working hard to play themselves into the circle and the score remained goal for goal for the first half of this quarter.
Lightning’s defence were sparked by a clean intercept from new signing Emma Bliss at goal defence, which brought on a succession of interceptions from the defensive unit, helping the team pull away 16-10 in the quarter and 44-31 overall.
A more creative Lightning attack appeared in the final quarter as the visitors produced their best score of the game. Shooter Kirk combined well with a visionary Hampshire, boosting her success rate to 86% with 12 goals in the second half of the game.
Lightning upped the ante in defence - better man to man cover across the team kept Leeds to their lowest score of the game and created more opportunities for centre Murphy and captain Jade Clarke to intercept outside the circle. Loughborough graduate Ama Agbeze was dominant in her defensive work for Leeds, however Harten & Kirk both made interceptions in the final 15 minutes to boost the winning score.
Loughborough Lightning next face Glasgow Wildcats at home on Saturday 29 November at 6pm. Men go free with a full paying female as part of Lightning’s Bring a Bloke campaign. For tickets log onto www.loughboroughlightning.co.uk
– but the sailors praise the new boats