Team Bath produced a spirited performance but lost 37-40 to Netball Superleague leaders Manchester Thunder in a thrilling game at the STV. Thunder came into the fixture on a 15 match winning streak, spanning back to the same date last year when Team Bath beat them in Manchester. At the start of the game, the home side looked like they could repeat the trick with Shaunagh Craig, starting her first match of the season scoring a brace either side of captain Asha Francis to give Bath an early 3-0 lead. In a scrappy first quarter featuring many turnovers in possession, the gap between the two sides fluctuated between two and three points, leaving Bath two points ahead, 10-8 after the first 15 minutes.
The home side then came quickly out of the traps at the start of the second quarter, extending their lead to 13-9 after the opening exchanges. With Bath holding onto this advantage to lead 15-11 after 6 minutes of the second quarter, Manchester coach Tracey Neville called for a time out and made a substitution at goal attack to try and change the flow of the game. The pause appeared to disrupt the home side’s rhythm, with Thunder bringing the scores level at 18-18. The visitors then moved ahead for the first time in the match at 19-18 with 90 seconds of the second quarter remaining. With Bath’s lead eroded, coach Jess Thirlby called for a time out of her own to try and change the flow of the game. Another pause seemed to have the same effect as the first, with the game once again becoming disrupted and neither side adding to their points tally before the half time interval.
With the match firmly in the balance, Team Bath made a pair of half time changes with Rosie Allison replacing Craig at Goal Shooter and Kyra Jones coming on at Centre for Asha Francis with Mia Ritchie moving to Wing Attack. The match remained tight with both sides exchanging goals to leave the score at 25-25 with 9 minutes of the third quarter played. Interceptions were still a regular occurrence but the league leaders started to show their quality as they moved 32-28 ahead at the end of the quarter.
Thunder continued to look the better team at the start of the fourth as they extended they advantage to 5 points at 35-30 with just under 10 minutes remaining. However, a spirted Bath side were not about to lie down and a turnover in possession saw them score two quick goals to reduce the arrears to three. With the visitors on the back foot, another time out was called by Neville to try and calm her side down. The break in play was again successful as Thunder scored 3 unanswered points to move 38-33 in front with under 5 minutes remaining. In front of a raucous home crowd, Team Bath fought back again with Allison reducing the deficit to 39-37 with 79 seconds remaining on the clock. With the match still in the balance, both sides suffered nerves in the final minute with Manchester scoring a solitary goal to win 40-37 and take their record this season to 10 wins out of 10.
The result leaves Bath 5th in the Superleague table, 6 points behind Hertfordshire Mavericks who they play in the next round of fixtures. The match on Monday 30 March will be live on Sky Sports and is a must win game for the Blue and Golds to keep their top 4 play-off aspirations alive.