AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

After the most competitive season in the Netball Superleague’s history, the two teams which have both led the league table during the year emerged from the play offs as 2019 finallists. Wasps, champions for the past two seasons, were in no mood to be trifled with, registering a 74-54 win over victory over Loughborough Lightning, who had ended the league season in fourth place in the table.

Mel Mansfield opted to keep her starting seven on court for the entire game, and her confidence in their abilities was rewarded with an impressive all-court performance. Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris were in scintillating form in the Wasps attacking circle, showing great shooter to shooter understanding and clinical finishing that left Loughborough’s defence chasing for much of the game.

Amy Flanagan showed once again why she is one of the league’s great unsung heroes, with a dominant performance at WD to shut down Lightning’s speed in attack and restrict space on the circle edge. The loss of inspirational shooter Mary Cholhok to injury at the start of the final period interrupted Loughborough’s rhythm, and with Jade Clarke and Bongi Msomi now controlling the pace in their attacking third, Wasps eased into their third successive final.

There Wasps will face Manchester Thunder, the only side to score two wins over the champions this season, who out-muscled TeamBath in the second semi final 57-54. In a high octane encounter, Thunder showed all the tenacity and grit for which they have become well known, and in crunch situations it was the black and yellows who emerged on top.

Veteran defender Kerry Almond, in her last ever home game for Thunder, was the epitome of this determination, constantly turning over ball in the TeamBath circle and severely restricting the range of Bath’s Australian shooter Kim Commane. For the neutral observer, the game had plenty of end to end action, but it was Thunder who frequently emerged on top in the exchanges, hunting down ball and refusing to give up on any opportunity for an interception.

Bath led by four early on, but once Thunder had found their rhythm, inspired by some superb defending from Almond and Emma Dovey, they were inspired. The Manchester side took the lead towards the end of the quarter and, despite several rallies by the visitors, were never behind again. And so the stage is set for a final showdown, this weekend at London’s Copper Box. Will it be third time lucky for Wasps? Or will Thunder give the veteran Almond the perfect send off into retirement? Tension is rising……