Loughborough Lightning v Saracens Mavericks
Ella Clark scored 91 goals over round 16, against Rhinos and Mavericks

Loughborough Lightning confirmed their Netball Superleague semi-final place on Monday as they came from behind to win 59-51 at Saracens Mavericks.

It was the Mavericks’ second defeat of the weekend, after they lost 50-49 to top-four rivals Team Bath on Friday.

Leaders Manchester Thunder put in a dominant performance to overcome Bath 66-45 on Monday and remain unbeaten.

London Pulse continued their bid for a semi-final spot with a 53-38 victory over Severn Stars on Saturday.

Surrey Storm began their weekend by beating Strathclyde Sirens 55-52 on Saturday but were unable to produce back-to-back victories, losing 65-52 on Sunday to a much-improved Wasps side.

Sirens also struggled to find form in round 16, losing their second match of the Bank Holiday weekend, on Monday, 54-49 to Stars.

Lightning had already beaten Leeds Rhinos 71-56 on Friday in a fixture rearranged from round one when they travelled to London to face a Mavericks side trying to work their way back into the top four.

Mavericks are now without a win in three games, having lost to Pulse in round 14, and could be starting to drift away from the pack at the top with the prospect of a tough run also looming. They face Sirens, Storm and Thunder in their next three games.

Lightning continue their prolific form and, were it not for a relentless Thunder continuing to overwhelm every opponent they face, would perhaps be receiving more plaudits for an impressive season under new coach Victoria Burgess, who replaced Sara Francis-Bayman for the 2022 season.

Thunder look unstoppable

Thunder have won all 16 of their games, have broken the record for the most goals scored in a Superleague match, then broke their own record again a week later and qualified for the semi-finals with six games to go – all without ever really breaking a sweat.

They were pushed by Mavericks, Bath and Pulse in earlier rounds but learn from their mistakes and rectify the issues in their next game.

Their away match against Bath earlier in the season was a tight game, back in round six, which brought the leaders a 57-53 win – but in Monday’s reverse fixture at Belle Vue, Thunder produced a dominant and professional 21-goal win.

It is difficult to pinpoint what has worked so well for Thunder this season – having last year reached the semi-final, where they lost to Bath – as things just seem to have clicked all over court.

Eleanor Cardwell has partnered Joyce Mvula sublimely for perhaps her best season in a Thunder dress yet and has quickly gelled in attack with Natalie Metcalf, who returned to Manchester at the start of the season, giving England head coach Jess Thirlby much to think about when it comes to the Roses shooting end.

In mid-court, head coach Karen Greig has been able to interchange the dynamism of Caroline O’Hanlon and strength of Laura Malcolm in the centre and wing-defence positions.

She has found a solid replacement for their departed goal defence Emma Dovey in South Africa international Shadine van der Merwe, who has slotted in seamlessly alongside veteran Kerry Almond, and has even been able to call upon less experienced players Lois Pearson, Millie Sanders and Yomi Eza-Wilson without cause for concern.

They face Rhinos next week before their final three games of the regular season against Mavericks, Pulse and Lightning – and it should suit the three-time champions to have a challenging run into their semi-final on 3 June, as they seem to relish in the pressure of a tough game.

Although competition to finish fourth in the league is tight, whoever does so will face the daunting prospect of a Thunder side with the ability to humble any opponent they come up against.

Results

Round 15

Friday, 29 April

Leeds Rhinos 56-71 Loughborough Lightning

Team Bath 50-49 Saracens Mavericks

Saturday, 30 April

Severn Stars 38-53 London Pulse

Surrey Storm 55-52 Strathclyde Sirens

Sunday, 1 May

Wasps 65-52 Surrey Storm

Monday, 2 May

Strathclyde Sirens 49-54 Severn Stars

Manchester Thunder 66-45 Team Bath

Saracens Mavericks 51-59 Loughborough Lightning

Team Played Won Draw Lost For Against Goal Difference Points
Manchester Thunder 16 16 0 0 1113 846 267 48
Loughborough Lightning 16 15 0 1 992 814 178 45
London Pulse 16 11 0 5 816 749 67 33
Team Bath 16 9 0 7 865 802 63 27
Saracens Mavericks 15 8 0 7 810 784 26 24
Surrey Storm 15 7 0 8 894 963 -69 21
Leeds Rhinos 15 6 0 9 758 849 -91 18
Wasps 16 5 0 11 817 885 -68 15
Strathclyde Sirens 15 4 0 11 732 804 -72 12
Severn Stars 16 3 0 13 762 929 -167 9
Celtic Dragons 15 2 0 13 717 851 -134 6



Reference-www.bbc.co.uk

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