Team Bath’s eight-match unbeaten run in Superleague came to an end with a dramatic 39-38 loss to fourth-place Saracens Mavericks.
Manchester Thunder ended Loughborough Lightning’s seven-match winning streak with a high-intensity 59-50 win.
Lightning head coach Sara Bayman said her side “didn’t deserve to win”.
“That loss has been coming for a couple of weeks – we were poor, we had enough chances to win the game – but a loss is a good kick up the backside for us.”
Lightning squandered several leads, most notably in the second quarter where they held a four-goal cushion at times only to finish that period five goals behind.
A fast start from Wasps was enough for them to see out a 49-37 victory over London Pulse while Severn Stars inflicted a ninth successive defeat on Celtic Dragons, beating them 47-35.
Leeds Rhinos, Surrey Storm and Strathclyde Sirens all sat this round out and will return to action in the next round.
Thunder end Lightning’s streak, Wasps and Stars win
After a strong start from both sides, the momentum swung between Thunder and Lightning, who squandered their lead on several occasions.
Thunder’s mid-court and Caroline O’Hanlon in particular began to look more settled and were able to exploit Lightning’s errors and quickly inflate their tally.
A sensational last-quarter effort from Thunder, where they scored 17 goals and held Lightning to just nine, ensured they became the second team this season to defeat Bayman’s side.
Thunder head coach Karen Greig said: “We started to see grit last weekend against Rhinos and we’ve carried that through into training this week and pushed each other.
“We’ve previously come unstuck against Lightning – they’re tough to play and tactically astute, but we stood up well and we’re starting to find out what works for us.”
Thunder head into Monday’s match against Mavericks one point behind their opposition, where a win would push them into the top four.
Wasps started their game with determination and had built up a 13-goal lead going into half time.
However a draw in the third quarter and a one-goal loss in the fourth made for a lacklustre finish to the match as Pulse, who play Stars on Monday, continued to show signs of improvement.
Stars, despite losing wing-attack Beth Dyke in the opening quarter, powered through to a comfortable victory over Dragons to record their second win of the season, leaving the Welsh outfit still searching for their first success.
Game of the week – Mavericks 39-38 Bath
Bath defeated other top-four opposition in the form of Lightning and Wasps earlier in the season and also overcame reigning champions Thunder – but Mavericks proved a tough test.
They started the game quickly and rushed to a 4-1 lead before England Roses goal keeper Razia Quashie limped off with an ankle injury.
Head coach Kat Ratnapala was forced to shuffle the pack and introduce Georgia Lees at wing attack, moving Jodie Gibson – who signed for Mavericks in 2020 but was sidelined with injury – to goal defence and Jo Trip to goal keeper.
Mavericks put shooters Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis under significant pressure and took a two-goal advantage into the final quarter.
Going into the last five minutes, Mavericks held a five-goal lead but almost threw it away as they struggled to fend off a late surge from league-leaders Bath, who clawed back to draw level at 38-38.
But Borger’s foot was just out of court as she received the ball into the circle on their last-gasp opportunity to go ahead, leaving Mavericks – who had only two unforced errors compared to Bath’s 12 throughout the match – in possession and able to capitalise at the other end.
Mavericks head coach Ratnapala said she “didn’t breathe for the last 12 minutes” and hopes her side have “backed up what we put out” after her side received criticism in previous rounds for a lack of consistency in performance across quarters.
In contrast, Bath head coach Anna Stembridge said her side were “hurt” not to get the win, which would have been their ninth on the spin, and that they had learnt “a hard lesson”.
Results & fixtures
Sunday, 4 April
Manchester Thunder 59-50 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 47-35 Celtic Dragons
London Pulse 37-49 Wasps
Saracens Mavericks 39-38 Team Bath
Monday, 5 April
Severn Stars v London Pulse
Saracens Mavericks v Manchester Thunder