Netball Superleague: Manchester Thunder into semi-finals as fight for fourth continues

About 300 spectators returned to the Copperbox for rounds 17 and 18 of the Superleague

Manchester Thunder secured a place in the Netball Superleague semi-finals with back-to-back wins, leaving four teams vying for the final spot.

Thunder beat Severn Stars 55-43 and Surrey Storm 57-41 to join Bath and Loughborough Lightning in progressing.

Wasps remain fourth after their 41-37 loss to Saracens Mavericks.

But seventh-placed Mavericks have two games in hand and the other top four contenders, Leeds Rhinos and Strathclyde Sirens, each have one.

Sirens lost 48-37 to Bath in their first match of the weekend, but had moved up to fifth in the table when they beat Mavericks 41-35.

But Rhinos returned to form with a 49-39 win over Storm to reclaim fifth spot, after losing 59-51 to Lightning, who also beat Celtic Dragons 59-35 this weekend.

On Friday, Bath began their weekend with a 45-32 victory over Severn Stars, and London Pulse inflicted a 52-30 defeat on Dragons, who remain bottom, to secure their fourth win of the season.

Game of the week – Saracens Mavericks 41-37 Wasps

After losing to a composed Sirens, and given how tight the scrap for a top-four place is, both the wounded Mavericks and Wasps must have viewed their meeting as a ‘must-win’.

Mavericks head coach Kat Ratnapala had previously blamed a lack of consistency for their league position but her side produced a stellar final-quarter comeback to secure a hard-fought victory – their first ever – over the two-time champions.

Wasps were leading 24-20 at half-time but, not for the first time this season, were unable to hold onto their lead and made costly mistakes as Mavericks rallied.

A crucial interception from England international Jodie Gibson, in only her second full match this season, turned the tide for Mavericks with 15 seconds left of the third quarter, and they went on to score 13 goals in the last quarter to Wasps’ five.

Ratnapala praised her side for their determination, while her Wasps counterpart Mel Mansfield said her team were “maybe just simply not good enough” after a “painful” loss which she called a “reflection of our season”.

Top-four going to the wire

Saracens Mavericks v Strathclyde Sirens
Four teams are left in contention for top-four spots – Wasps, Saracens Mavericks, Strathclyde Sirens and Leeds Rhinos

That result leaves the race for the final semi-final spot wide open, with fourth to seventh place separated by only four points, and with one point splitting each team.

Rhinos and Sirens each have two games remaining while Wasps have one and Mavericks have three.

Rhinos have the easier run-in on paper, with games against Pulse and Dragons – but both of those games take place on the final weekend of the season, giving the sides around them the opportunity to pile some pressure on before then.

Wasps head coach Mansfield said her side had “probably put ourselves out of contention” with their loss to Mavericks.

They face Storm in their final game, along with the prospect of missing out on the semi-finals for the first time since they joined Superleague in 2016.

Sirens face Dragons and defending champions Thunder in their next two games, while Mavericks take on Bath – they are the only side to have beaten the league-leaders this season – Pulse and Storm knowing their destiny is in their own hands.

The Superleague will return, after a bye week, on Sunday, 13 June.

Results & fixtures

Round 17 & 18

Friday, 28 May

Celtic Dragons 30-52 London Pulse

Severn Stars 32-45 Team Bath

Saturday, 29 May

Loughborough Lightning 59-35 Celtic Dragons

Manchester Thunder 55-43 Severn Stars

Strathclyde Sirens 37-48 Team Bath

Sunday, 30 May

Loughborough Lightning 59-51 Leeds Rhinos

Saracens Mavericks 35-41 Strathclyde Sirens

Manchester Thunder 57-41 Surrey Storm

Monday, 31 May

Leeds Rhinos 49-39 Surrey Storm

Saracens Mavericks 41-37 Wasps

Team Played Won Lost Draw For Against Goal Difference Points
Team Bath 18 17 1 0 880 647 233 51
Loughborough Lightning 18 16 2 0 984 708 276 48
Manchester Thunder 18 15 3 0 972 748 224 45
Wasps 19 10 8 1 849 765 84 31
Leeds Rhinos 18 10 8 0 884 856 28 30
Strathclyde Sirens 18 9 7 2 734 746 -12 29
Saracens Mavericks 17 9 7 1 755 746 9 28
London Pulse 17 4 13 0 646 720 -74 12
Severn Stars 18 3 15 0 653 877 -224 9
Surrey Storm 18 2 15 0 701 887 -186 6
Celtic Dragons 17 1 16 0 602 960 -358 3

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