Leeds Rhinos Netball set for semi final showdown against Loughborough Lightning
during the Vitality Super League match between Leeds Rhinos and Loughborough Lightning at Studio 001, Wakefield, England on 28th February 2021.
In their first season in the Vitality Netball Superleague, Leeds Rhinos Netball have reached their first Play Offs and have a chance to claim the Superleague trophy. In a weekend filled with action, as the semi finals on Saturday when Dan Ryan’s side meet Loughborough Lightning, who are looking to win their first Superleague title since the league was founded in 2005, at 2pm.
Take a look at our opponents here:
Loughborough’s Season so far
Finishing at the top of the league thanks to a 54-39 win over Team Bath, Loughborough Lightning are eager to get their first Superleague title after another positive season. Having come so close over the last three seasons, Sara Bayman’s side have been one of the front runners all year, along with Team Bath and Manchester Thunder, but will be looking to go a step further in 2021. It will also be the final time that influential goal defence/goal keeper Samantha May will get a chance to lift the Superleague trophy as the league longest serving import, who arrived from Australia in 2013, announced her retirement at the end of the season.
Despite losing to Bath on the opening day of the season, Loughborough put a seven match winning streak together at Wakefield’s Studio 001 to put themselves at the top of the table; beating the likes Leeds, Saracens Mavericks and Severn Stars convincingly as well as taking a win over Wasps by one points. Losing to Manchester Thunder in one of their last matches in Wakefield fuelled Lightning to finish on a high as they toppled Strathclyde Sirens 61-35 and Celtic Dragons 76-23 before the move to London.
At the Copperbox, Thunder were the only team to beat Lightning as Bayman’s side clinched their place in the play offs before the regular season had ended. Play Off hopefuls Wasps and Mavericks were thwarted by Lightning before wins over London Pulse, Surrey Storm, Severn Stars and Celtic Dragons sealed Loughborough’s place in the final four for a fourth consecutive season. The action didn’t stop though as on the final day, Lightning produced one of their best performances of the season to beat Team Bath and steal top place.
Ones to Watch
Position: Goal Shooter
In her second season at Lightning, Mary Cholhok has been the League’s most lethal shooter over the course of the regular season. At 6ft 7in, she has dominated close to the net, finishing the season with 772 goals, which put her as the League’s highest scorer. Having developed her attacking style and movement during her time with Loughborough, she will the focal point of Bayman’s attack.
Position: Centre/Wing Defence
The recently crowned player of the season Beth Cobden will be out to win a place in the Grand Final, having missed out in the 2018 final with an ACL injury. The former Adelaide Thunderbird is a rangy defender and has done well to shut down wing attacks with 22 interceptions and over 40 turnovers. She was also selected to represent the Vitality Roses last month.
Position: Centre/Wing Defence
The leader out on court, Loughborough captain Natalie Panagarry is well known for her effective leadership and ability to control attack and defensive ends throughout the league. She has a great connection with Mary Cholhock all season, providing the goal shooter with plenty of service, and will need to be stopped by the Rhinos. As well as Cobden, she is also in the Roses team for 2021-22.
Since they entered the Superleague in 2005 as one of the founding teams, Loughborough have made the Grand Final three times before:
2007-08 – Lost 43-39 to Galleria Mavericks
2017 – Lost 55-51 to Wasps (Grand Final)
2018 – Lost 55-51 to Wasps (Grand Final)
Lightning also played in the semi finals in 2019 but were beaten by Wasps. Progressing to the third place play off game against Team Bath, Loughborough lost 62-56 and finished fourth.
Games against the Rhinos
Meeting twice in 2021, matches between Loughborough and Leeds so far have seen Lightning win on both occasions. A 70-49 defeat in round four was the Rhinos’ first major test of the season but Loughborough continued their winning streak in the League; the league’s highest scorer Mary Cholhok recording 51 points.
At the Copperbox, it was a different contest as Dan Ryan’s side pushed Loughborough close, but Lightning got the result nonetheless. Nothing could separate the two sides over the first two quarters as Donnell Wallam matched Cholhok at the net. A big third quarter saw Lightning win the game though, adding 19 points to their scoreline comparted to Leeds’ 12, and although it was a close final quarter, Loughborough held on to win 59-51.
Watch the Game Live
Don’t miss any of this weekend’s finals action at the Copperbox, with every match available to watch on Sky Sports and YouTube. Click the link below to watch the Rhinos’ semi final clash with Loughborough now: