Vitality Netball Superleague: Grand Final Preview

The Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) 2021 season comes to an end on Sunday as Loughborough Lightning take on Team Bath Netball in the Grand Final.

An epic day of semi-final action saw two of the founding members of the competition reach the showpiece event, while 2019 champions Manchester Thunder will face league newcomers Leeds Rhinos in the third-place play-off.

15:00, Sunday 27 June – Leeds Rhinos vs Manchester Thunder

Vitality Roses and Roses Futures involved:

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Rhinos – Jade Clarke, Vicki Oyesola, Rhea Dixon, Sienna Rushton, Brie Grierson

Thunder – Laura Malcolm, Ellie Cardwell, Amy Carter

When you reach Finals Weekend the goal is certainly to come home with a winners medal, but securing a bronze medal would still represent a phenomenal achievement for Leeds Rhinos in the debut season. Despite being outmatched by Loughborough Lightning in their 58-38 semi-final defeat, the determined defending by Vicki Oyesola and creative flair of Brie Grierson were stood out as they competed against the odds having not played since May 31. And a ‘War of the Roses’ clash with Manchester Thunder gives them added incentive to deliver an even better performance. Thunder won both regular-season matches against Rhinos but were given a significant in their 48-41 success in Round 8 and they could suffer from fatigue after an almighty battle with Team Bath Netball in their semi-final. Karen Greig’s side fought to the end against a stubborn opponent who made no notable errors in the final quarter. Laura Malcolm was her usual dynamic self, while Ellie Cardwell and Joyce Mvula applied great pressure on the league’s best defence. Thunder are the champions so any result that fails to match that will be disappointing but there’s no doubt they will want to clinch third spot.

17:00, Sunday 27 June – Loughborough Lightning vs Team Bath Netball

Vitality Roses and Roses Futures involved:

Lightning – Nat Panagarry, Hannah Joseph, Ella Clark, Beth Cobden

Bath – Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Imogen Allison

The Grand Final pits the franchise that finished top of the table against the club who lead the league for the vast majority of the campaign. Loughborough Lightning pipped Team Bath Netball to first place in the final game of the regular season after beating the five-time champions 54-35 last Monday. It’s a result that could give Lightning a psychological edge heading into their fourth Grand Final having lost on the previous three occasions. The win also gave Lightning an ostensibly easier semi-final which was reflected in the final quarter of their 58-38 victory over Leeds Rhinos where Sara Francis-Bayman was able to rest key players such as Nat Panagarry and Beth Cobden in preparation for Sunday’s crucial encounter. However, Team Bath’s Eboni Usoro Brown insisted that her side’s form heading into Finals Weekend didn’t tell the full story as consecutive defeats Saracens Mavericks and Lightning had made them appear vulnerable. The Blue and Gold dispelled that notion on Saturday with their 41-38 triumph over Manchester Thunder where the professional manner in which they saw the contest out highlighted their immense quality. Imogen Allison was imperious at the back, while Serena Guthrie delivered a Netball UK Player of the Match-winning performance and with players of that stature, it’s hard to bet against them. But Lightning are desperate to lift their first title and concluded the regular season at the summit for a reason and after being named Computacenter Player of the Match in the semi-final with a stellar display, Sam May looks determined to sign off her netball career in style.

Watch the thrilling conclusion to the 2021 season this weekend on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel!

Head to the Vitality Netball Superleague website for fixture details.

Follow England Netball on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for the latest news and content.

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