After an intense four days of competition at the University of Nottingham, Manchester Thunder (U17 and U19) and London Pulse (U21) have been crowned champions at the 2019 NPL Tournament.
Manchester Thunder defended their title after a narrow 38-35 victory over Saracens Mavericks in a hotly-contested final.
After comprehensive opening day 48-6 and 51-16 victories over Wales and North East respectively, Thunder carried their momentum through into days two and three.
They overcame Loughborough Lightning 36-30 before edging a 36-35 thriller against Wasps and seeing off London Pulse (33-31) to reach the semi-finals unscathed.
There they ran out 35-32 winners against Severn Stars to put themselves just one win away from getting their hands on the trophy.
Saracens Mavericks also enjoyed an unblemished run to reach the U17 final.
They dominated Group F, beating Team Bath (23-42), Severn Stars (34-39), Surrey Storm (24-38) and Leeds Rhinos (31-24), before securing a 42-36 victory over Wasps to set up a crunch clash with Thunder.
The final was a tight affair with Saracens Mavericks having a narrow one-goal cushion at the end of the first quarter (10-11), half-time (19-20) and heading into the final period (26-27).
The Black and Yellows were level at 33-all with four minutes to go and there was still nothing to separate the two sides at 35-35 with one minute 20 seconds to play.
However, a late surge saw Thunder come out on top and take a 38-35 win.
Meanwhile, Stars bounced back to come away with bronze after a 33-31 win against Wasps.
Manchester Thunder finished the competition in style with a 55-48 victory over Wasps to take top spot in the U19 category.
They saw off fierce competition from Leeds Rhinos (59-36), Team Bath (46-35), Surrey Storm (72-44) and Severn Stars (52-30) to make it through to the semi-finals with a perfect record.
There they came up against Loughborough Lightning, who had won three and lost just once (60-55 to Wasps Netball) as they finished second in the Group D table behind Wasps (W4).
Thunder got the better of Lightning in a close contest (44-42), while Wasps comfortably got the better of Group C runners-up Leeds Rhinos (68-39).
With the title up for grabs and the players giving it everything, things were all square at 13-13 at the end of the opening quarter of the final.
The Black and Yellows led 19-16 with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter and worked hard to extend that lead to five but Wasps clawed it back so there were just three goals the difference at half-time (25-22).
Wasps flew out the traps at the start of the third quarter and were up by two (28-30) with eight to go but Thunder hit back and turned the game in their favour once again to lead 37-36 going into the last 15 minutes.
They accelerated away in the fourth quarter, pushing out to four in front and then six (53-47) before ultimately winning 55-48.
In the third-place play-off, Lightning secured the bronze medal after seeing off Leeds Rhinos 65-47.
In the other placing matches, Saracens Mavericks won 55-46 against Surrey Storm, while London Pulse fought off Team Bath (50-54) to claim seventh place. North East finished ninth after victory over Severn Stars (36-41).
London Pulse lifted the U21 trophy after they beat defending champions Manchester Thunder 41-45.
There was a symmetry to the U21 competition as London Pulse and Manchester Thunder also went head-to-head in their opening fixture.
Pulse ran out comfortable 53-40 winners on day one before continuing their impressive form, beating Surrey Storm (55-47) and Team Bath (72-40) to top Group B and progress to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Thunder were edged out in a one-goal thriller by Team Bath (53-54) before overcoming Surrey Storm (56-50) to finish second in the group.
In Group A, Severn Stars made it through to the semi-finals unscathed with victories over Saracens Mavericks (47-50), Loughborough Lightning (40-46) and Wasps Netball (37-54).
Loughborough Lightning secured the second spot up for grabs after recording wins against both Wasps (42-60) and Saracens Mavericks (49-44).
Group A winners Stars came up against Group B runners-up Manchester Thunder, while Group B winners London Pulse faced Group A runners-up Loughborough Lightning.
Thunder put an end to Stars’ unbeaten run, snatching a 34-33 win in a pulsating and edge-of-your-seat game.
The Pulse-Lightning clash went with the form book though as the London-based side maintained their 100% record with a 50-42 victory to set up a tantalising final.
It was a gripping game with London Pulse making a strong start to lead by four at the end of the opening quarter (11-15).
Thunder battled back to within one before establishing a two-goal advantage (22-20) with two and a half minutes to until half-time, but Pulse turned the tables again to have a three-goal cushion (22-25) going into the second half.
The momentum stayed with them and they continued to grow the gap, stretching out to six in front (26-32), but a resilient Thunder side plugged away to cut the deficit with the score standing at 32-34 at the end of the third quarter.
Pulse were in the driving seat and didn’t look back, running out 45-41 winners against a strong Thunder outfit.
Severn Stars took home the bronze medal after beating Lightning 36-34, while Team Bath won 62-44 against Surrey Storm for fifth and Saracens Mavericks overcame Wasps 36-40 to finish seventh.
A huge thank you to all players, coaches, officials, volunteers and supporters for a fantastic four days of competition.
All of the 2019 NPL Tournament results can be viewed here.
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