Lighting face narrow defeat to Pulse in a highly contested rematch of last year’s Grand Final

Mary Cholhok contesting for a netball against a Pulse defender

Image by Ben Lumley

Lightning were on the road for the first time this season for their highly anticipated fixture against Pulse. With a record attendance at the Copper Box Arena, the game delivered the same amount of drama and intensity as last year's Netball Super League Grand Final.

From the outset, Lightning performed strongly on court, making the most of their player’s experience, a key component that helped them to secure the 2023 Netball Super League win last June. Pulse worked well to match the skill of Lightning’s players, with their younger, innovative players working effectively to apply pressure to Lightning’s play.

Overall, the first quarter was a relatively close period of play, with both teams rising to the occasion as they settled into the game. Alice Harvey worked well on Lightning’s defensive side, allowing the ball to travel back down the court, whereas both Rhea Dixon and Nat Panagarry worked well at Lightning’s circle edge to manoeuvre around Pulse’s defenders.

Specifically, Pulse’s Halimat Adio rose to the occasion, showing that Pulse can gain possession when needed, applying added pressure to Lightning’s attacking decisions.

A great set of plays between captain Panagarry and Mary Cholhok at the circle edge meant Lightning maintained a steady stream of goals as the highly contested, first quarter continued.  Elsewhere, Beth Cobden applied defensive pressure, gaining possession for her team.

Moving onwards into the second quarter, it was clear Lighting were determined to disrupt Pulse’s steady, dominant play. Within the circle, Ella Clark came on for Rhea Dixon, making an immediate impact through some impressive feeds to Cholhok. 

However, after a misfeed from Lightning, Pulse’s Adio picked up an interception, allowing Alicia Scholes to grant Pulse a slight lead over Lightning, with the win still remaining in reach of both sides.

Half time: London Pulse 25- 24 Loughborough Lightning

Within the third quarter,  both Lightning and Pulse maintained the same level of intensity that dominated the first half of the game, with both teams operating once again on a level playing field. Lightning evened the score through some impressive attacking plays between Clark and Cholhok, whereas another turn-over from Cobden saw Lightning steer the game in their favour.

The continued attacking work of Hannah Joseph and Nat Panagarry allowed Lightning to progress onwards, furthering their fight for the win. The end of the penultimate quarter saw Annabel Roddy take the place of Nicola Smith at goal defence, hoping to make her mark on the court.

The ultimate battle for the win took place within the final, electrifying quarter with both Lightning and Pulse giving it their all across the court.

Lightning were able to stay in the game as they attempted to take control. Some impeccable plays from Panagarry saw the scoreboard become level at 46-46 with only a few minutes to go. Yet, in the end it was Pulse that managed to secure the win with a final, definitive goal from Olivia Tchine.

Overall, the game was a great display of talent, with both teams performing remarkably well in front of the 3,500 fans in attendance at the Copper Box Arena, London. Engaging , fast-paced games are vital to allow the progression and professionalisation of the sport, and Lighting and Pulse provided just that.

Full-time: London Pulse 53-52 Loughborough Lightning

Loughborough Lightning Head Coach Vic Burgess commented on the nail-biting, tightly fought performance, admitting that throughout the game “some errors did creep in”.

Yet, she also stressed the importance of timing, stating that it’s “the third game of the season, we have a long way to go.” Going on to confidently state: “It’s still early on, we have lost games and won leagues. We will learn from this.”

Moving into round four, Lighting progress onwards to face Saracens Mavericks on the 10th of March at the Hertfordshire Sports Village, where they intend to regain their winning streak.

Tickets to Lightning’s 2024 home campaign are on sale now and can be purchased here.   


Starting line-up: 

GS: Mary Cholhok 

GA: Rhea Dixon 

WA: Hannah Joseph 

C: Nat Panagarry 

WD: Beth Cobden 

GD: Nicola Smith 

GK: Alice Harvey