Lightning secure victory over Leeds Rhinos in Round Five of the NSL

Mary Cholhok contesting a high ball under the shooting post

Image by Ben Lumley

Lightning welcomed Leeds Rhinos onto campus as they looked to build on their strong start to the Netball Super League season. Vic Burgess once again went with an unchanged starting seven in front of a home, sell-out crowd at Sir David Wallace.

As the game began, the well-co-ordinated attacking duo of Nat Panagarry and Rhea Dixon worked effectively as always to deliver the ball into the circle to Mary Cholhok and giving Lightning an early lead.  

In retaliation, Rhinos players Amelia Hall and Joyce Mvula attempted to parallel the attacking work of Lightning, driving their score onwards, hoping to give Rhinos the edge from the start.

Elsewhere a skilful, mid-court interception from Beth Cobden showed Lightning’s defensive merit, with her impactful intercept allowing Lightning’s defensive tactics to shine, granting Lightning a steady lead as they moved towards the end of the first quarter.

Progressing onwards, the second quarter showed a continuation of Lightning’s determination and tenacity that allowed them to dominate the first quarter. A steady stream of feeds from Hannah Joseph to Dixon, and then finally Cholhok saw Lightning move onwards with a steady stream of goals behind them, cementing their lead on court.

A contested rebound between Cholhok and Rhino’s Geva Mentor showed the well-developed skill and experience of both players. Yet, Lightning’s goals remained frequent as they placed some significant distance between themselves and their opposition.

As the second quarter came to a close, the masterly defensive work of Alice Harvey and Nicola Smith worked well to close down Rhinos attacking plays, forcing them wide and further out from goal.

Half-time: Loughborough Lightning 37 - 28 Leeds Rhinos

As the game progressed, Ella Clark came on for Dixon at goal-attack, hoping to drive Lightning’s attacking efforts and maintain the gap between both teams.

Making a continued defensive impact, Smith worked well around Rhino’s circle edge, making a particularly skilful intercept that propelled Lightning onwards with their already dominant lead.

Bella Baylis took to court as the penultimate quarter drew to a close, taking over at centre from captain Nat Panagarry who switched to wing defence, allowing the ball to travel down the court with ease.

The final quarter saw both teams making continued, forceful efforts to add as many goals as possible to the scoreboard, leading to the end of the match turning into a dynamic, highly contested display of netball. Smith moved to goalkeeper, allowing Annabel Roddy to take to the court in the position of goal-defence, with both players working to keep Rhino’s attackers to the outside of the circle, far from the post.

Strong, confident feeds from Baylis saw the ball fly into the circle, maintaining Lightning’s lead. Whereas the continued challenge between Cholhok and Mentor saw the last few minutes of the game culminate into an entertaining contest. Yet, despite Mentor’s attempts to raise Rhino’s spirits, in the end it was Lightning that took the win.

Full-time: Loughborough Lightning 71 – 55 Leeds Rhinos

After a talented defensive display, Nicola Smith was awarded the title of ‘Kissimmee’ Player of the match for her continued, relentless work on court.  She commented:

“Netball is always physical but this one especially so. I’ve been enjoying this from the start, my team, and its environment. Everyone just supports each other.”

On a similar note, the work of captain Nat Panagarry also saw her being praised, taking the title of ‘Long Tall Sally’s’ Player of the Game.

After their impressive win, Lightning head coach Vic Burgess commented on the team’s performance...

“We were ruthless with some of our defenses displays. There were also some good decisions by our attacking players to be aggressive at the circle edge.

“We lost the last quarter which we won’t be happy with, and we’ll be looking at what we need to fix up there.”

“Really proud of the girls today. Whilst they did a great job there is still work to be done as we look towards facing Thunder next week”.

Lightning will face Manchester Thunder at the Belle Vue Arena, Manchester on Saturday the 23rd of March, where they look to keep their winning streak alive. 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