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Jets give Thunder a scare

Netball | Published:

TEAM JETS produced a performance to be proud of in a see-saw battle on Sunday, but ultimately it was the hosts left on the ground as Sussex Thunder continued to cruise at altitude.

Teenage goal-shooter Lily Jones (15) was outstanding for Team Jets at Fort Regent on Sunday, but the Islanders finished just short of league leaders Sussex Thunder Picture: ROB CURRIE

The Caesareans, searching for maximum points for the first time in Premier League 3 since 4 February – a run covering 12 games across two seasons – twice battled back from heavy deficits against a side on course for promotion. Jets did glean two valuable bonus points – closing the gap to fellow strugglers Kent County by one in the league table – but that first win of 2018/19 eluded them once again.

‘They haven’t lost a game, and we haven’t won a game, so that does play on your mind going into it,’ said Jets captain Jacy Brown. ‘But you’ve just got to keep fighting and for us to come out with a performance like that against top of the table is great.

‘It was very up and down, but we kept chipping away, like you have to in all games at this level, and we got two points rather than one. That might help us in the long run … you’ve got to take everything you can.’

Jets have been forced to weather a heavy storm in recent weeks, with injuries and illnesses not helping during a run of six consecutive defeats, and with the arrival of Thunder came arguably their biggest test yet.

The league leaders had won all seven of their games before arriving at Fort Regent, and just a glance at their height advantage over Jets in warm-up was enough to provide further warning. After making a pre-match shout out for England captain Serena Guthrie, an hour before the Islander led her country out for the final match of their International Series, Linda Andrews sent a shuffled but determined starting seven out knowing a dose of luck would be required.

With Emily Green and Lisa Luce still recovering from injuries, Lily Jones and Gabriella Martin began at goal-shooter and goalkeeper respectively, either side of a familiar mid-court anchored by Brown at centre. It was a side that had enough in the bag to cause Sussex problems – made clear by a handful of turnovers and swift attacks – but the visitors were still able to enjoy early dominance on the scoreboard with the help of high balls and impressive accuracy.

It was perhaps no surprise that looping passes would be utilised by the girls in yellow, and with shooter Lauren Pedelty showing no hesitation from range they raced ahead mid-way through the opening quarter with a four-goal blitz.

However, it was far from being one-way traffic and Jets came out fighting after the first break.

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Player of the match contender Jones and goal-attack Tallulla Norman were themselves comfortable when taking aim from long-distance, and their pin-point shooting contributed heavily to a superb shift in momentum. Jets were on the right end of a six-goal swing in Q2 as everything appeared to click into place. Thunder looked stunned.

Andrews has long discussed the need for her players to maintain that level of performance over extended periods, rather than for just one or two quarters, but she would have again been disappointed with a lack of consistency.

Jets had the wind well and truly sucked from their sails after half-time and found themselves seven goals down before they realised what had happened. It looked gloomy, but again they forced Thunder back into a corner as the match neared its conclusion.

Seven-down became three-down, and with just three minutes remaining it was all level. Jets’ player of the match Brown asked for more protection from the umpires as she plotted a late and previously-unlikely victory at 41-41, but one final turnover proved costly.

Team Jets (sponsored by One Foundation, Dominion and Polar Capital): Gabriella Martin, Josie Le Masurier, Nicole Goddard, Jacy Brown, Rosie Tonner, Tallula Norman (Rena Nelson Q3), Lily Jones.

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox
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