Defending champions Surrey Storm will meet 2014 champions Manchester Thunder in the Vitality Superleague Grand Final after Saturday’s semi-finals.
After Thunder had booked their place in the Copper Box showpiece with victory over Team Bath 53-46 earlier on Saturday, it was left to rivals Storm and Hertfordshire Mavericks to play out a thriller.
Coming down to the final seconds, it was Storm who held on with Rachel Dunn’s nerve holding to nail the all-important goal that ensured a two-goal deficit would not be hauled back with little time remaining in a 53-51 victory.
It means the defending champions Storm will get the chance to keep their trophy when they face a Thunder side that finished top of the regular season standings and keen to make amends for missing out in the semi-finals last year.
Dan Ryan’s team will be equally keen to avenge their only defeat of the regular season, when they were beaten by Storm in Manchester in February.
In front of a lively crowd at the Surrey Sports Village, a thrilling first quarter ebbed and flowed with Mavericks recovering from a nervy opening few minutes to edge into a two-goal lead after the first 15 minutes.
The second quarter was a cracker with the radars of shooters Rachel Dunn of Storm and Sammy Wallace of Mavericks very much on – Wallace taking Mavericks into a seven-point lead before Dunn and Pamela Cookey led the Surrey fightback.
With just two points in it at half-time the third quarter was equally as thrilling with Dunn and Cookey finding their range to turn the deficit into a one-point advantage ahead of the final 15 minutes.
And there was no let up in the drama as the game ebbed and flowed with brilliance under the posts from both teams and fantastic turnover defence.
However it was a turnover and crucial score from Dunn that proved to be crucial, Dunn’s goal in the final ten second of the game enough to secure a return to the Copper Box for the champions.
Manchester was the venue for the opening semi-final of the day and a blistering start from them set the tone for an opening quarter that was to prove crucial against Team Bath.
With the visitors slow out of the traps and freezing in the semi-final spotlight, Thunder wasted no time in forging an 8-2 advantage and by the end of the opening 15 minutes they were a huge 11 goals clear – a deficit that was to prove too much for Bath to make up.
The visitors rallied throughout the remaining three quarters, and were just edged out by a point in quarters two and three before a stirring fightback in the final quarter set nerves jangling at the Thunderdome.
Anna Stembridge’s team were busy from the outset and as they ebbed away at the lead, their confidence grew.
Having pulled the deficit back to seven points with three minutes remaining Bath’s efforts to set up a grandstand finish were hindered by some understandably desperate attempts to win the ball back or find the goal.
In the end Thunder closed out the win and remain on course for their third Superleague title in Ryan’s first season as head coach.
You can follow all the build-up to the Grand Final on /netball this week and watch the game on Sportsclubsociety 1 next Saturday from 6pm.
By purchasing a Sportsclubsociety Day Pass for £6.99 or Sportsclubsociety Week Pass for £10.99, you can enjoy access to all seven Sportsclubsociety channels and watch on a TV with a NOW TV Box or on a range of devices.