A late Lightning comeback wasn’t enough to silence league leaders Pulse

London Pulse celebrate a 61-58 victory over Lightning at the Copper Box Arena in both team’s penultimate league game of the season.

After a narrow 49 - 55 defeat in Round nine to London Pulse at Loughborough University, Loughborough Lightning were back with a vengeance and point to prove.Round nineteen of the Netball Superleague Season saw Loughborough Lightning, with an eight-game winning streak in hand, attempt to challenge London Pulse’s top spot in the table. 

The Copper Box Arena quickly filled up on the sunny bank holiday weekend with excited fans seeing both teams looking strong in warm-ups. Pulse took the first centre pass, and despite an early tip for Alice Harvey, raising the crowds, Pulse manage to take to goal getting the first point on the board.   

Both teams off to a flying start with today’s rivals finding themselves with an early 4-1 lead after Lightning throw their first opportunity off the back line.Despite levelling the score line to 13-13 Lightning looked uncomfortable around the attacking circle struggling to find Mary Cholhok under the post. In comparison, Jade Clarke and Chelsea Pitman found Olivia Tchineand Berri Neilwith ease. The Pulse defensive effort was strong and made Cholhok work for every aerial feed. 

A gritty first quarter, Lightning showed real determination to come back and finish the quarter just one goal behind. Both teams needed to settle as all to play for entering the second quarter.   

End of Q1: London Pulse 1615 Loughborough Lightning 

A steady start to the second quarter saw both teams converting their centre pass to goal. Hannah Joseph broke the pattern with an important tip allowing Dixon to convert to goal, followed by a Lightning centre pass to take the scorelevel.London Pulse continued to find Tchine with ease with some impressive aerial feeds whilst Lightning utilised Dixon’s speed and front cut to work the ball into the attacking D. 

A period of goal for goal continued with both teams keeping the ball safe and converting feeds. Some costly errors from Lightning allowed Pulse to sneak back a lead with an unforced error and foul being called against Dixon. With an obvious shift in momentum Pulse ran with the crowd’s cheer and took a 28-24 lead. Despite the pressure of recently selected Vitality Rose, Fran Williams, working hard to pressure ball and Dixon and Cholhok linking up much more effectively,Pulse were able to hold onto their lead and finished for half time with a substantial five goal lead.  

End of Q2: London Pulse 3328 Loughborough Lightning  

No changes for London Pulse at half time. Lightning saw Harvey take to the bench and Zan Vimbela come on at GK; a chance for Lightning to change up their defensive pressure in Pulse’s attacking D.Despite the altered pressure of Vimbela, Tchine remained dominant in the attacking D taking ball all around the circle and resultantly putting shots up at a whopping 100% accuracy. Lightning were forced to work the ball around court with Joseph grafting hard in attacking play to find the circle edge. Once on circle edge linking up with Dixon and Cholhokseemed effortless 

A small travelling crowd brought the energy for Lightning and the defensive unit made crucial momentum turnovers but Pulse remained in control and in the lead. Williams went again, in true characteristic fashion, rolling round the body of her player, and found a crucialoverhead aerial interception. Lightning were unable to convert with an unsuccessful feed to Cholhok and Pulse further extended their lead. Vimbelafound her feet and createdessential aerial challenge in the D but Pulse seamlessly adapted workingthe ball into the attack despite a new style of defence. 

The quarter ended with Pulse extending their lead to six goals, Lightning trailed with much to do. 

End of Q3: London Pulse 48 - 42 Loughborough Lightning 

Lightning made a further change in attempt to find a way to stop Pulse for the find quarter and broughtLightning legend Lauren Nicholls on at WD, in replacement forJas Odeogberin 

With fresh legs from Nicholls and continued defensive pressure from Williams and Vimbela, Lightning were able to better challenge through court ball and force Pulse GS Tchine to alter her angles with immense aerial pressure. A visible impact made from Lightning substitutions.  

Lightning remained trailing despite experienced player Joseph taking a well needed interception and Vimbela relentlessly challenging ball after ball. Pulse saw Clarke take to the bench with Ellie Rattu replacement. Lightning followedsuit bringing Emma Thacker on at GA for Dixon who had immediate impact taking a mid-court interception which Cholhokwas able to convert. Pulse responded with Zara Everitt winning ball back for her team. Thacker continued to impress coming on with such confidence during an intense game putting up long bombs in her usual style.   

Lightning found rhythm and seemed to be playing with much more freedom in the final few minutes supported by a loose ball pick up from Williams, interception fromVimbela and unforced error from Pulse allowing them to go within three goals. A real momentum shift was felt and hopes of Lightning pulling back were felt however, it was all too late for Lightning leaving Pulse able to take a 61-58 win.The comeback was just too late.   

Full-time: London Pulse 61 - 58 Loughborough Lightning 

After a strong four-quarter performance Pulse’s Pitman was awarded player of the match and on interview celebrated the team’s effort in securing a home final at the Copperbox Arena. Pitman shared ‘it’s back to the drawing board with two more games to go” with their final league game against Saracens Mavericks coming up on June 5th on Sky Sports. 

Lightning’s assistant coach Liv Murphy took to interview and first congratulated Pulse on their win this evening in an extremely clinical performance. On reflection of the game, Murphy commented key learnings that the team recognised they can score and put goals up against top teams like Pulse. Lighting will need to take this beliefinto their final game against Team Bath, in hopes to secure a home semi-final. 

Sam Bird closed the interviews reflecting on their performance and unusual show of a consistent seven remaining on court for the full sixty minutes with one enforced injury change to Clarke. Bird wrapped up the evening’s spectacle congratulating recently selected World Cup selected players.  

London Pulse celebrated a hard earned 61-58 victory over Lightning and resultantly secured themselves a home semi-final. Tickets will go live on Sunday 28th May.   

Lightning will have to continue to fight for a home semi-final returning to the court at Loughborough University for round twenty of the NSL season against Team Bath on Friday 2nd June 2023 19:30.Tickets can be purchased here 


Starting line-up: 

GS: Mary Cholhok 

GA: Rhea Dixon 

WA: Hannah Joseph 

C: Nat Panagarry 

WD: Jas Odeogberin 

GD: Fran Williams 

GK: Alice Harvey