Netball

Lightning finish top as Thunder take second

Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder and Team Bath finished on 51 points, separated only by goal difference

Loughborough Lightning beat Team Bath in the last game of the season to finish top of the Superleague and set up a semi-final against Leeds Rhinos.

Bath will face Manchester Thunder in the second semi-final.

Thunder’s win over Strathclyde Sirens left the top three teams separated only by goal difference.

Rhinos were granted a spot in the semi-final after a positive Covid test meant they could not play their final two matches.

Thunder showed title-winning form in a ruthless 64-37 win over Sirens, who had been fighting for a play-off spot until Rhinos were given fourth place.

Thunder head coach Karen Greig said she was pleased with the performance, and the determination her side have shown to recover from losses to Bath and Wasps as well as laboured displays earlier in the season, uncharacteristic of Thunder, against lower league opposition.

“It’s necessary to have those bumps, however awful it felt at the time,” she said.

“We faced some criticism in those early rounds, but we believed in what we were trying to achieve and we have seen that come to fruition.”

Defeat by Saracens Mavericks in round 19 left Bath visibly shaken and Lightning’s convincing 54-35 victory pushed the Somerset-based outfit into third, despite their having led the league from the outset.

Lightning, who had lost to Thunder in round 19, were in control from the start and head coach Sara Francis-Bayman said it felt “surreal” to finish the season at the top of the league.

“We’re really happy – they did such a good job of gradually building a lead and continually pushing on. I’m really proud of them for bouncing back because they were terrible last week so to come out like that takes a lot of guts.”

The semi-finals will take place on Saturday, 26 June at the Copperbox with the final the following day.

What happened in the final round?

The fight for the top four places has been exciting across the season, but the decision to give Rhinos the last semi-final spot meant round 20 had a slightly anti-climactic feel.

Despite losing to Thunder in the final round, Sirens have provided a welcome disruption to the usual top-four battle, and although they ultimately finished sixth it marked a vast improvement on ninth in 2019, when they recorded just nine points.

Perhaps the most surprising result of all was Wasps, who finished their campaign with a 39-35 loss to Surrey Storm, ending a disappointing run that sees the two-time champion failing to make the semi-finals for the first time since joining the Superleague in 2017 – they finished seventh, while Storm finish 10th having won three games.

Mavericks won their final match against Storm 48-35, but a lack of consistency has made for a rocky season and their fifth place represents frustration for a side who have been unable to crack the top four since 2016.

Severn Stars recorded their fourth victory of the season with a 45-39 win over Celtic Dragons, who won just once all season and now say goodbye to head coach Tania Hoffman, who is returning to her native New Zealand.

Results & fixtures

Round 20

Sunday, 20 June

Saracens Mavericks 48-35 Surrey Storm

Manchester Thunder 64-37 Strathclyde Sirens

Celtic Dragons 39-45 Severn Stars

Monday, 21 June

Surrey Storm 39-35 Wasps

Loughborough Lightning 54-35 Team Bath

Team Played Won Lost Draw For Against Goal Difference Points
Loughborough Lightning 20 17 3 0 1084 803 281 51
Manchester Thunder 20 17 3 0 1096 831 265 51
Team Bath 20 17 3 0 950 747 203 51
Leeds Rhinos 20 12 8 0 884 856 28 36
Saracens Mavericks 20 11 8 1 882 856 20 34
Strathclyde Sirens 20 10 8 2 824 844 -20 32
Wasps 20 10 9 1 884 804 80 31
London Pulse 20 6 14 0 734 793 -59 18
Severn Stars 20 4 16 0 738 958 -220 12
Surrey Storm 20 3 17 0 775 970 -195 9
Celtic Dragons 20 1 19 0 675 1058 -383 3

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