Sara Francis-Bayman’s team had lost three previous finals and had not been part of a Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final since 2018; earlier in the day, Manchester Thunder beat Leeds Rhinos Netball to secure third place
By Emma Thurston at the Copper Box Arena
Last Updated: 28/06/21 6:06am
Loughborough Lightning have won the Vitality Netball Superleague title for the first time after beating Team Bath Netball 49-32 in the 2021 Grand Final.
Sara Francis-Bayman’s team, who had fallen at the last hurdle three times previously in 2008, 2017 and 2018, overcame the league’s most-decorated side in front of 1,000 fans at the Copper Box Arena.
England international Beth Cobden was exceptional, stepping up every time Lightning needed her to, and in attack, they remained composed and accurate.
Having led 22-14 at the interval, Lightning weathered a third-quarter comeback from Bath, and put their foot on the gas in the last quarter to end their 15-year wait for a first Superleague title.
“We wanted to do it for the club, we’ve never done it before. The girls who have been here for years and the coaches, we’ve made history for Loughborough,” said an elated Cobden, who was named player of the match.
“We just believe in ourselves; we stick together, we stick to what we know we can do and it all came together on the day.”
Lightning end wait for title in emphatic fashion
Loughborough Lightning’s wait for a first Vitality Netball Superleague is finally over after an exceptional dismissal of Team Bath Netball in the final.
At the scene of their last final defeat in 2018, Lightning banished the memories of that awful day in stunning fashion against their old rivals.
Back in 2018, they were rocked by an early ACL injury to Cobden and three years on, the England international was instrumental in creating history for her team.
An edgy start from both outfits meant that it took nearly two minutes for the first centre pass to go to goal.
Bath were then first to secure a run of two, as Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth turned a ball into Mary Cholhok, and Kim Borger converted accurately at the other end.
However, as the quarter continued, Sam May and Jas Odeogberin stepped up to ensure that Lightning went into the first pause with a 11-7 lead.
Bath, who had never lost a Superleague final once they’d made their way into one, knew they had work to do and for much of their second quarter they hassled Lightning.
With Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis in their ranks, Bath were rapid in attack, however Lightning had moves of their own going forwards.
Hannah Joseph’s accuracy into Cholhok allowed Lightning to put their foot to the floor in the final few minutes of the half, and they pressed their advantage out to eight goals at the midway point.
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The second half started with Bath securing the vital turnovers they needed, however during the championship minutes, Cobden came into her own. She put a lid on Bath’s momentum time and again, and the ball that she earned weathered Bath’s storm.
The final pause did little to quell Lightning’s steely determination and when Bath turned to their bench to make changes, the team that started the day without a title to their name, knew that they had a first Superleague crown sewn up.
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