Manchester Thunder win inaugural U15 Netball Performance Competition

Manchester Thunder triumphed in the inaugural U15 Netball Performance Competition as they overcame Surrey Storm with a dynamic display in the final.

Thunder won all six of their matches at the University of Wolverhampton to secure the title.

Eight Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) franchises, Leeds Rhinos, who will join the VNSL in 2021, and an invited North East side competed in the first edition of the tournament.

Two days of intense competition began on Saturday morning for all ten sides, who were provided with educational programmes during the weekend.

The first day provided numerous engaging matches as teams attempted to finish inside the top two in their respective groups to qualify for the semi-finals.

In Pool A, Manchester Thunder topped the table with 12 points from a possible 12 with Leeds Rhinos finishing in second place with nine points.

Severn Stars ran Thunder close in the opening game as they came within five points of the eventual champions. Stars also narrowly overcame North East by two goals later in the day.

The final encounter of Pool A pipped the top two against one another to decide who would finish top of the table. Lauren Palmer’s side ran out comfortable winners in the end as they secured a 35-12 victory.

On the other side of the draw, the top four teams in Pool B were separated by just three points.

Wasps Netball and London Pulse finished on six points while Saracens Mavericks and Surrey Storm qualified for the semi-finals with nine points each.

London Pulse’s nail-biting 26-24 win over Surrey Storm set up a thrilling finale in Pool B with Saracens Mavericks and Pulse facing off in the penultimate game of the day. A seven-goal winning margin was enough for Mavericks, who settled for second after Storm’s 27-16 victory over Team Bath.

In Sunday’s semi-finals, Manchester Thunder continued their winning streak with an impressive 38-24 win against a talented Mavericks outfit. Thunder would meet Surrey Storm in the final, who edged out Leeds Rhinos by eight goals.

The remaining matches saw some tight affairs. Wasps Netball overcame Loughborough Lightning by six goals and Severn Stars by just three. London Pulse were also ran close by Lightning, who lost their last match by a margin of five goals.

It was the third-place play-off between Saracens Mavericks and Leeds Rhinos, however, that produced the tightest meeting of the two days.

Rhinos found themselves one in front by half-time after a quick start but an impressive final two quarters meant Mavericks secured bronze by just one point.

With Mavericks on the podium, attentions turned to the final between Manchester Thunder and Surrey Storm. These two sides had impressed throughout the competition and they met for the first time on Sunday afternoon.

Thunder ended the first quarter 8-7 in front and a last-second goal just before half-time ensured that they extended their advantage to four goals with 16 minutes left to play. The third quarter saw Thunder hit their stride as they scored 10 goals to pull away from their opposition.

The final eight minutes of the tournament saw the winners at their very best, netting 15 goals to put the game beyond Surrey Storm, as they became the first-ever winners of this event thanks to their 37-18 victory.

Vitality Rose Gabriella Marshall was present to award Saracens Mavericks with their bronze medal, Surrey Storm with their silver and Manchester Thunder with their gold.

England Netball would like to congratulate all participating teams and wish to thank all of the players, coaches, officials, supporters and volunteers for a fantastic weekend.

A full list of results from the 2019 U15 Netball Performance Competition can be viewed here.

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