Loughborough Lightning maintained their 100% record in the Fiat Netball Superleague, despite a fourth quarter fight back by the Celtic Dragons.
A full house at the Loughborough University Netball Centre witnessed a night of firsts, with under 21 internationals Afrika Morris and Sophia Candappa both impressing on their home debuts. But it was Coach Olivia Murphy, stepping onto the court for her first home start for two years, which got the fans on their feet.
Lightning made a fast start in the first quarter, racing into an 8-1 lead. Jo Harten and Becky James quickly found their range with Murphy controlling the game in centre court and Candappa and Talissa Haynes providing energy on the wings. As the quarter came to an end a flowing passing move allowed James to score and put 20 points on the board, putting Lightning firmly in control.
1st quarter score 20-9
The second quarter saw Masego Motaung come on at Wing Defence for Talissa Haynes. The Dragons looked to make inroads, bringing the deficit down to eight points. But Lightning responded well to the visitors, maintaining their eleven point lead by half time.
2nd Quarter score 33-21
A tentative start to the third quarter saw both teams trade points, with the battle between Morris and the Dragon’s Goal Shooter, Lottysha Cato, becoming more pivotal as the match progressed. Despite the Dragon’s efforts, and Cato’s shooting becoming more influential, Lightning matched them to keep ahead with a healthy twelve point lead.
3rd Quarter 47-35
The final quarter saw Murphy come off to be replaced by Haynes at Centre. But the team missed Murphy’s calming influence as her young side struggled to withhold an onslaught by the Dragons, who reduced the deficit down to three points.
With nine minutes to go Lightning regrouped and took control of the game once more. Key defensive blocks by Morris and Emma Bliss gave the ball to Lightning who showed more composure in their passing, to create the openings for Harten and James to secure the win.
4th Quarter score 57-52
After the final whistle the Loughborough Lightning head coach Olivia Murphy was glad to take the result:
“It is nice to get a second consecutive victory under our belt. We need to work on decisions under pressure but the team spirit held well when Dragons gave us a solid challenge.”
Lightning are back in action on Saturday 5th February when they take on the Hertfordshire Mavericks, at the earlier time of 4pm.
Jo Harten: 45/55 81.8% Rebecca James: 12/20 60%
Lottysha Cato: 45/47 95.7% Cara Lea Moseley: 7/10 70%
photo Getty Images