In a thrilling contest on Sunday, London Pulse took on the three-time Superleague champions Manchester Thunder for the second time this season. Pulse were within four goals at three-quarter time after challenging Thunder for the majority of the game, but Thunder were able to pull away in the final term, eventually taking the win 50-42.
The match started at a ferocious pace with Thunder converting their opening centre pass in the blink of an eye. Pulse responded and were able to equalise credit to the great vision of Lefébre Rademan to sight Olivia Tchine under the post. Both teams gathered strong rebounds and the two sides were going toe to toe in the opening minutes of the game. Tchine was holding strong up against seasoned campaigner Kerry Almond and the Pulse attack were using the speed of Adean Thomas to open up the attacking end.
A huge defensive play from Halimat Adio saw Pulse take the lead 8-6, but Thunder settled into the game and were able to draw level. A slick passage of play down the middle channel from the Northern side saw them take the lead by one, finishing the quarter on 12 goals to Pulse’s 8.
A defensive change for Thunder in the second quarter saw Elia McCormick replace Rebecca Airey at goal defence and have an immediate impact. Pulse were quick on transition and were able to win back possession, keeping the scores level. Some fantastic tenacity from Adio saw Pulse disrupt the attacking combination of Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell, and Tchine made no mistake at the post, shooting at 100% in this quarter and keeping the scores even.
An unfortunate injury to Adean Thomas saw Kiera Rothwell replace her in the wing attack position and Thunder took advantage of the chance to go on a six-goal streak. Pulse settled in the final few minutes and went into the half time break trailing by just five goals.
A huge third quarter saw both teams rack up the goals and play with freedom and speed in attack. A long feed from Laura Malcolm into Mvula under the post allowed Thunder to maintain their advantage. Another unfortunate injury for London Pulse saw co-captain Adio forced to the sideline and replaced by Lindsay Keable. Her impact was felt immediately with two rebounds to lift the London side and the Pulse team rallied to close the gap.
The scoreline was now 26-29 and Thunder were forced to make a change in defence bringing on Emma Dovey who is returning from injury. Pulse continued to lift the intensity and compete with the northern side, going goal for goal with the reigning champions and winning the quarter 13-12.
Thunder stamped their authority on the game in the final quarter, extending their lead from four to six goals in the opening minutes. The side capitalised on some Pulse errors and were able to win ball by forcing the London team to the sidelines and challenging every pass. The gap suddenly increased to 10 and Thunder were looking confident and in control of the game. This prompted the inclusion of Funmi Fadoju into the goal defence position who got her hands to the ball almost immediately, but the game smarts of O’Hanlon saw Thunder smother this opportunity.
The Pulse defenders were not giving up and a tip from Keable shortly followed by a rebound from Fadoju gave Pulse a late surge allowing them to reduce the deficit from twelve to eight. This was unfortunately too little too late in terms of the final scoreline with Thunder maintaining their advantage to claim the win.
Despite missing out on the win on this occasion, Pulse will take great confidence away from this performance. The last time these teams met Thunder took the win by 27 goals and Pulse’s improvements in all areas of the court since that encounter are clear to see. Pulse remained in the contest despite two injuries to starting seven players during the game, and we will look ahead to our next clash with Wasps hoping to further improve on this performance.