After an intense four days of competition at the University of Nottingham, Manchester Thunder (U17 and U21) and London Pulse (U19) were crowned champions at the 2018 NPL Tournament.
Manchester Thunder finished the competition in style with a 51-24 victory over Surrey Storm to take top spot in the U17 category.
They saw off fierce competition from London Pulse (29-20), Loughborough Lightning (44-31), Mavericks (27-24) and Severn Stars (41-22) to make it through to the semi-finals with an unblemished record.
There they came up against Wales, who had won four and lost just once (31-29 to Wasps Netball) as they finished second in the Group E table behind Surrey Storm (also W4, L1) on goal difference.
Group E leaders Storm faced Group F runners-up Severn Stars (W3, L1).
The semi-finals went with the form book – Thunder won 32-28, Storm won 36-23 – with the table toppers both progressing to the 2018 final.
In the final, Thunder accelerated to an early 5-1 lead over Storm and kept their foot well and truly on the gas as they stretched to 15-2 in front.
Despite a comfortable cushion, Thunder refused to rest on their laurels and kept the scoreboard ticking over in a classy performance.
The damage had been done early on for Storm and although they kept plugging away, they had to settle for silver against worthy winners Thunder.
Stars came away with bronze after a 40-25 win against Wales, ahead of London Pulse in fifth (36-19 vs Team Bath) and Mavericks in seventh (25-19 vs Wasps).
Loughborough Lightning finished ninth after a three-way play-off with Yorkshire (10th) and Team Northumbria (11th).
London Pulse lifted the U19 trophy after they beat defending champions Manchester Thunder 53-43.
After opening day 67-30 and 64-47 victories over Mavericks and Wasps Netball respectively, London Pulse carried their momentum through into days two and three.
They edged to a 59-50 win against Surrey Storm before overcoming Team Bath 76-34 to reach the semi-finals unscathed.
London Pulse swept aside last year’s runners-up Yorkshire (64-34) to put themselves just one win away from getting their hands on the trophy.
Meanwhile, Manchester Thunder were back with the aim of defending their title and proved they meant business from the off, dispatching Loughborough Lightning in a comfortable 60-35 win.
They made it two from two on day one, running out 46-35 winners against Yorkshire.
There were no signs of Thunder slowing down as they swept Team Northumbria aside in a dominant 72-36 victory before beating Severn Stars 56-26 to top Group C with a 100% record.
A hotly-contested 61-52 win against Wasps Netball secured their spot in the final and a chance to defend their crown.
London Pulse held a narrow two-goal lead at the end of the opening quarter of the final before immense defensive pressure and a run of six unanswered goals saw them lead 28-18 at half-time.
Manchester Thunder opened the scoring in the third quarter but their opponents proved too strong with an impressive display.
A resilient Thunder outfit tried tirelessly to claw back the deficit but top honours went to the London-based side.
Wasps secured a third-place finish after seeing off Yorkshire 53-49 in a closely-fought encounter.
In the other placing matches, Mavericks won 51-40 against Loughborough Lightning, while there was a 41-40 thriller as Surrey Storm fought off Severn Stars to claim seventh place. Team Bath finished ninth after victory over Team Northumbria (54-30).
Manchester Thunder secured the U21 title after coming back from seven goals down to claim the title in a captivating clash.
After three days of competition, Team Bath and Mavericks topped their respective groups with perfect records and appeared to be in the driving seats.
Manchester Thunder put an end to Mavericks unbeaten run though, storming to a 63-39 win in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Team Bath recorded a comprehensive 84-40 victory over Wasps in the other semi-final to set up a tantalising finale.
Just one goal separated Team Bath and Manchester Thunder when the two sides had met earlier in the competition with the Blue and Gold taking the win 46-45.
And early on, it looked as if bragging honours would be heading back to the South West.
But a resilient and refreshed Thunder side fought back in the second quarter to not only get back on level terms but edge ahead and lead 25-24 at half-time and then extended their lead to five goals at the end of Q3.
Team Bath certainly weren’t down and out though, making things all square at 41-all before overtaking their northern rivals.
Clinical Thunder regained control to build a five-goal lead and although Team Bath kept chipping away, the Black and Yellows hung on to win.
Wasps Netball took home the bronze medal after beating Mavericks 54-35, while Loughborough Lightning won 56-53 against Surrey Storm for fifth and Team Northumbria overcame Severn Stars 58-47 to finish seventh.
A huge thank you to all players, coaches, officials, volunteers and supporters for a fantastic four days of competition.
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