Surrey Storm survived a late onslaught by Manchester Thunder to successfully defend their Vitality Netball Superleague title with a 55-53 win in the Grand Final.
Storm had comfortably led Thunder throughout an exhilarating contest at the Copper Box Arena in London until the final quarter when Dan Ryan’s side staged a remarkable comeback.
The 2014 winners reduced the deficit to just one goal with seconds remaining before Rachel Dunn made sure of victory as Storm held on to make it back-to-back titles.
Storm head coach Kathryn Ratnapala said it “was a dream come true” as she hailed her side’s winning display on the biggest stage.
“I can’t actually believe it,” she told Sportsclubsociety 5. “What a dream true. It’s been a very short but very intense season. Everyone has played a massive part and I really couldn’t have asked for anymore from the squad – what an amazing season.
“It was all about sticking to our plan and structure. They have played a solid season and the fact that we were underdogs, it really didn’t matter.”
Surrey made a blistering start to the match, piling the pressure on favourites Manchester, who were unable to deal with the early storm. They opened up a 10-point advantage at one point thanks in large to some prolific shooting from Dunn and the experienced Pamela Cookey.
But Thunder showed plenty of fighting spirit to claw their way back into the contest and reduce the deficit to six – 15-9 – with Ellie Cardwell and Helen Housby at the fore.
Emma Dovey replaced Jodie Gibson for Thunder as coach Dan Ryan looked to shore up his leaky defence, but Storm, who were competing in their third consecutive Grand Final, were taking no prisoners.
They maintained their 10-point lead and then turned on the afterburners with Dunn – 100 per cent with her goal shooting – landing another from distance on the half-time buzzer.
Storm headed into the third quarter with a 32-19 advantage and Thunder were now looking for miracles.
Ryan made positional changes with Kathryn Turner on for Ellie Cardwell with Housby made the focal point of their attack. Laura Malcolm was also replaced by Gabby Marshall at Wing Defence.
Surrey held a 13-goal advantage which was halved by Manchester. They headed into the final quarter leading 43-36.
With the pressure on, Storm head coach Ratnapala brought on Josie Huckle as Goal Keeper with captain Hannah Reid moved into Goal Defence. Katt Ainsworth also replaced Georgia Lees as they looked to shut up shop.
But Thunder roared out of the blocks with the momentum in their court, reducing the lead to three goals with under two minutes remaining.
Housby, the hero from two years ago, made it a one-goal game with under 30 seconds on the clock, but Surrey showed supreme composure by holding onto the ball and running down the clock. It was left to Dunn to score the final goal and secure victory in dramatic fashion.
Player of the match Pamela Cookey said: “This season has been great. It has just been a real solid squad performance. We’ve just done ourselves proud.”