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Match Report: Sapphire Series

Round 7 – 28/07/2019

Words By Cameron Tenardi. Image Supplied

This past weekend saw the 4thplaced USC Thunder host the 5thplaced QUT Wildcats in round 6 of the HART Sapphire series. Both teams were looking for maximum points as the competition approaches the half way mark of the season.

The game started slowly with both teams forcing turnovers before a single goal had even been scored. Thunder were first to get onto the board after over a minute of play and backed it up with a second. This allowed Thunder to move into an early 6-4 lead before the Wildcats scored 5 in a row to take a three-goal advantage midway through the first quarter. Both sides were shooting accurately, making turnovers all the more valuable. Wildcats continued to hold the advantage with their lead stretching out to seven with three minutes to go. Some excellent goal shooting from Jesse Wardlaw, who made her Sapphire debut in this round, allowed Thunder to remain within striking distance. Wildcats won the quarter 13-19 to claim the first bonus points for the game.

The second quarter began with both sides displaying a lot more energy than they did in the first. Chloe Litherland (C) and Josephine Hungerford (WA) were feeding the ball through to Jesse Wardlaw (GA) and Ellie Bird (GS) with ease, allowing for greater scoring opportunities. With six minutes remaining in the quarter the Thunder had pulled within four goals of the Wildcats. Some great defence from Lily-May Catling (GD) and Ash Unie (WD) forced numerous turnovers within a short period of time. Sienna Allen (GK) made an important intercept with under three minutes remaining in the quarter, which was undone by an unfortunate unforced error. Thunder called a timeout with 2:14 remaining on the clock after the Wildcats had stretched their lead back out to 6. Two goals each after the timeout saw the teams share the bonus points with scores locked at 13-13 for the quarter.

Wildcats with the first centre pass of the quarter came out firing immediately, scoring five consecutive goals. A couple of strong turnovers by the visiting side hurt Thunder who had otherwise been attacking well up until this point. Wildcats were up 2-7 in the third and lead by 11 when a timeout was called. Sarahpheinna Woulf made her first appearance of the match after the timeout ended, slotting into GA. She made an immediate impact with some accurate shooting and some strong rebound wins in the attacking circle. Nicole Guenther entered the game at Centre late in the quarter with fresh legs seeing Thunder’s energy increase greatly. Some excellent defending allowed Thunder to force multiple turnovers, bringing them within reaching distance of the bonus points. Unfortunately, Thunder fell two short of the Wildcats third quarter tally, scoring 11 goals to 13. They headed into the final break down by 8.

Woulf swaps from GA to GD at the start of the fourth, whilst Guenther made way for Litherland at C. It was Thunder’s centre this time around, but it’s the Wildcats who scored first after forcing a turnover. Thunder scored next after forcing a turnover of their own to make it 1-1. Wildcats continued to shoot as accurately as they had done all game, taking a 3-5 quarter lead. After 6 minutes a timeout was called with wildcats holding a three-point advantage for the quarter. The Thunder defence continued to be strong in chase of narrowing the gap, but Wildcats height and accuracy at goal had them converting almost every goal-scoring opportunity. Thunder brought the score back with a couple of quick goals and were hungry to collect the final bonus points on offer, drawing even at 13 apiece for the quarter with two minutes remaining. Some desperate play gave Thunder an opportunity with under a minute to spare, but a crucial missed goal saw Wildcats with the final chance. They scored on the buzzer to take the quarter by one, claiming the final bonus points and a 9-point victory.

Thunder walked away with a single bonus point thanks to the draw in the second quarter. They will feel they played better than the final score would suggest and are improving each week. The team is starting to gel well and it’s only a matter of time before they begin to see more consistent results. Next Sunday the Thunder take on the Ipswich Jets in an allocated Thunder home game at the Queensland State Netball Centre. Whilst Thunder remain in the top 4, they take on the 2ndplaced Jets and will be gunning to return to the winner’s circle against quality opposition.


Q1: Thunder 13 – Wildcats 19

Q2: Thunder 26 (13) – Wildcats 32 (13)

Q3: Thunder 37 (11) – Wildcats 45 (13)

Q4: Thunder 51 (14) – Wildcats 60 (15)




Thunder starting seven: GS – Ellie Bird, GA – Jesse Wardlaw [DEBUT], WA – Josephine Hungerford, C – Chloe Litherland, WD – Ashlee Unie, GD – Lily-May Catling, GK – Sienna Allen

Substitutes: Abbie Mischke, Nicole Guenther, Sarahpheinna Woulf



Next match

Thunder v Jets, QSNC, Sunday 4thAugust, 5PM 



The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Sapphire Series or its clubs