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Netball - 29. March 2011.

Loughborough Lightning 52- Team Bath 50-Fiat Netball Superleague

Loughborough Lightning 52- Team Bath 50-Fiat Netball Superleague


Lightning earn victory over Bath in season thriller

Loughborough Lightning took on Team Bath on Sunday 27th March in the
Fiat Superleague at the Loughborough Netball Centre. Coach Olivia
Murphy had dubbed Bath as ‘not unbeatable’ following her side’s
victory over Glasgow Wildcats the previous Monday. However, following
an away defeat the day before to Northern Thunder, Lightning were
going to have to bounce back with a vengeance to prove her right. And
in a match dubbed by many as the best they have seen in years,
Lightning did just that, stealing victory from Bath in the dying
moments of the final quarter to take the game 52-50.

Murphy kept her team relatively unchanged from the side that finished
against Glasgow Wildcats, with Becky James restoring her place in the
starting line up. Following a vigilant second half display in defence,
the solid Emma Bliss and agile Masego Motaung started at goal defence
and wing defence respectively. The most noticeable inclusion in an
admittedly injury hit Bath side was that of ex Lightning player Katy
Rose at wing attack; the battle between her and Motaung was set to be
an interesting one.

As the game got underway, the tone of the game was soon set, with both
sides having to work hard when in possession to get round the vigilant
sets of defences. Lightning’s Afrika Morris, in particular, asserted
her presence on Bath goal shooter Rosie Allison, which resulted in
words of warning from umpire Debbie King.

It was evident at the other end that Bath had done their homework on
Lightning captain Jo Harten. Finding her often double marked, both
Sarah Jane O’Sullivan and Murphy in the Lightning centre court
impressed as they placed some impeccable balls into their talisman. As
the quarter time whistle went, Lightning found themselves having the
slightest edge over Bath, taking the quarter 12-11.

Despite the array of changes Bath made to their team at quarter time,
it was Lightning that started the second quarter better, scoring four
unanswered goals. As the tempo in the netball centre escalated, fans
began to wonder; could they knock giant killers Bath down?

However, with the scoreboard reaching 17-12, Lightning’s shooting
started to let them down as Bath forced them away from the circle
edge. Despite patient build up play, with James often being forced to
collect the ball from the edge of the final quarter, Bath pulled the
score back to 17-17. As Bath started to find gaps in what had been a
previously vigilant Lightning defence, the momentum changed in Bath’s
favour. At half time, the whistle blew with the scoreboard reading
25-22 to Bath.

It was the changes that Murphy and matchday coach Rose Port made at
the start of the second quarter that arguably turned the game in
Lightning’s favour. In an attempt to bolster up the defence that Bath
appeared to be starting to find their way around, youngster Nicola
Caunt came on at goal defence, as Bliss moved to goal keeper to
replace Morris.

For the third quarter in a row, Lightning started the quicker of the
two teams, as Harten and James found space they had previously been
unable to. James’ shooting from afar when requested was also
impressive.

Lightning’s progress was soon halted though as a Bath injury time out
gave the opposition a chance to regroup. However, despite clawing
their way back into the game, it continued in the same exhilarating
fashion, with both teams fighting and forcing the best out of each
other.

As the third quarter drew to a close and fans gasped for breath, the
scores were locked at 37-37.

Bath made one defensive change going into the final quarter, with
Lightning keeping the faith in those who had so far produced one of
their best performances of the season, in what will arguably be deemed
the most exciting Superleague game of the season so far.

As the teams took to the court, the tension in the Netball Centre
could be felt amongst fans and players alike. Bath converted the first
centre pass of the third, however Lightning, as they had done so often
in the afternoon, returned with a goal themselves. Lightning started
to work harder than they had done all season, forcing the Bath centre
court into crucial mistakes; the most noticeable being Guthrie’s
centre pass straight to O’Sullivan.

As Lightning had the lead at 45-44, Bath coach Jess Garland shouted to
her team, ‘It’s not over yet Bath’, however little did she know, it
soon would be.

Lightning grew in strength as the defence tightened up, with crucial
interceptions from the commanding Bliss at goal keeper. Bath were
rattled as Harten started to expose gaps in the Bath defence that she
had previously struggled to find.

However, the game was still not over. With just 2 and a half minutes
remaining on the clock, Murphy appeared to be clattered to the floor,
however she was adjudged to have committed the foul. As the crowd got
up on their feet to voice their disapproval, Murphy looked to the
umpire. Fans may have been forgiven for thinking Lightning’s luck had
run out.

But not this time, as Murphy got her revenge with just over 1 minute
remaining. It was her, fittingly, who made the interception to set up
Lightning for the goal to put them 50-49 up. You could almost hear the
heartbeats of the Lightning fans as they sat on the edge of their
seats. Lightning, however, were far cooler than their nervous fans, as
James made a crucial interception, and then converted, to make the
score 51-49.

It was too little too late for Bath, as the final whistle blew, ending
what had been an incredible game of netball. Lightning had edged it,
deservedly 52-50, and as they celebrated on court, their ever loyal
fans were on their feet applauding their astounding performance. Bath,
at the other end of the court looked exhausted and dejected as they
fell to their feet. However, they too had played a part in an
astonishing game of netball that won’t be forgotten in a long time.

Coach Murphy, again a stand out performer for Lightning, beamed, “I’m
obviously very pleased with the victory today. That team needed some
belief and hopefully that result will give us the belief we have been
waiting for.

And Murphy was quick to point out exactly why she thought her team had
got the result.

“It was all about the patience taking the ball to goal, no matter how
many passes it took, and grinding out the goals and then taking the
odd turnover. Emma bliss took two vital turnovers in the final
quarter, and we were so assured taking the ball to the goal, as we
knew that Jo would put it in the net.

“It’s the first time we have actually had a connection all the way
through the court and put together a full 60 minutes of netball.

Looking ahead to next week’s game against Leeds Carnegie, Murphy was
optimistic that her team’s new found form can help them through.

“We know Leeds will be tough. They are a different prospect, full of
energy and work really hard as a team. We have to take the consistency
from this performance and the team defensive effort into it. I’m sure
when we play like this we can beat anybody.”

For tickets for Lightning’s game next Monday 4th April against Leeds
Carnegie, please visit www.loughboroughlightning.com.

By Kelly Somers
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