The winning Vitality Roses and Future Roses. Credit: Morgan Harlow
Manchester Thunder have been crowned 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) champions following an epic Grand Final match at the Copper Box Arena, London.
Thunder completed their regular season unbeaten cementing their space in the top four before a semi-final win over Team Bath Netball secured their place in the final showdown.
Defending champions Loughborough Lightning progressed to the final after finishing the regular season in second position on the table then beating London Pulse 56-44 in their semi-final.
The atmosphere in the venue was electric, the Thunder drum was booming and the Lightning fans were making their voices heard.
Thunder began their match with four Vitality Roses and Future Roses on the court: Eleanor Cardwell, Laura Malcolm, Natalie Metcalf and Millie Sanders.
Loughborough Lightning started the fixture fielding six Vitality and Future Roses: Alice Harvey, Fran Williams, Hannah Joseph, Natalie Panagarry, Ella Clark and Ella Bowen.
Thunder were first to score with a shot from the hands of Cardwell finding its way through the net. Joyce Mvula then added another goal to their tally, extending the lead to 2-0.
Lightning then found their first, a looping feed from Clark expertly placed into the hands of Mary Cholhok who put the shot away well.
Both sides battled valiantly to pull away with the scoring, spurred on by the chants of the fans and the thoughts of lifting the trophy but it was Thunder who were able to establish a lead, ending the first quarter 20-8.
It was Lightning’s Emma Thacker who opened the scoring in the second quarter with a well-placed shot assisted by Joseph.
At the halfway point of the fixture, the score read 36-23 to the Manchester side.
The third quarter of action saw Lightning come out fiercely, aiming to reduce the deficit.
Williams caused trouble for Thunder’s attack as she noted five turnovers for her side, and at the end of the penultimate quarter, they had closed the gap to nine goals (46-37).
The final quarter was a display of skill and determination; Thunder had their hearts set on finishing their season undefeated whilst Lightning aimed to defend their title.
Vic Burgess’ side fought until the end to try and turn the game in their favour but Karen Greig’s team saw out the contest to reclaim the title they won in 2019 with Malcolm scooping the Vitality Player of the Match award.
Prior to the final, Team Bath withstood a late London Pulse comeback in a closely-fought, third-place play-off to take the bronze medal.
After being crowned Vitality Player of the Season just days earlier, Layla Guscoth was named Vitality Player of the Match as her side won 36-32.