Loughborough Lightning celebrate Super League final victory
Pulse beat Lightning in both of their meetings in the regular season

Loughborough Lightning came from behind to beat London Pulse 57-48 and win a second Super League title at London’s Copper Box.

A tense match saw Pulse race to an early lead and left 2021 champions Lightning chasing for the first half.

But Pulse were limited by Lightning to just eight goals in the third quarter, swinging momentum as Loughborough closed out the match.

Pulse have never won the Super League with this their first final appearance.

After the crowd were treated to a DJ set and saxophonist to prepare them for the league’s showpiece, Pulse twice in the opening stages of the match intercepted the long ball to Lightning shooter Mary Cholhok to race out to a 7-1 lead.

The Loughborough side looked nervy in the opening exchanges as the crowd sensed they might witness Pulse – who topped the table in the regular season – win the trophy for the first time.

But Vic Burgess’ Lightning side quickly sharpened up, realising they were also having to contend with a crowd heavily favouring Pulse, who play their home matches at the Copper Box.

A brilliant interception from Natalie Panagarry did not count after a contact call pulled the game back, a decision the crowd met with boos, but Lightning still managed to get within two by half-time.

Lightning’s Fran Williams, whose performances in defence have earned her a place in England’s World Cup squad this summer, made key deflections and interceptions to get her side back in the contest.

With the scores level at 35-35 midway through the third quarter, the ball zipped from one end to the other as both sides struggled to capitalise on the other’s errors and get the ball in the net.

But it was 6ft 5in shooter Cholhok who eventually managed to put the shot away after Williams’ decisive intercept, giving Lightning the lead for the first time in a pivotal moment in the match.

From that moment Lightning looked in control and, with the introduction of wing defence Beth Cobden who has missed much of the season with injury, their finals experience shone through and Pulse looked shaken.

Pulse lost only two games all season, to Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks, beating Lightning in both of their meetings on their way to finishing top of the league.

But, one year on from Lightning’s final loss to Thunder, where shooter Ella Clarke suffered a devastating anterior cruciate ligament injury, Lightning were determined to reclaim their crown in front of a raucous crowd.

Pulse head coach Sam Bird said that her goal defence Funmi Fadoju turns up on the big occasions when they need her most but, despite winning six turnovers and making 13 deflections, the 20-year-old could not make the difference on this occasion.

Even bolstered by the experience of Jade Clarke and Chelsea Pitman, Pulse looked like a side competing for a maiden title.

Tensions grew in the final moments as a tussle for the ball between Halimat Adio and Hannah Joseph sent boos ringing round the Copper Box.

But having drawn out a 10-goal lead in the latter stages of the final quarter, the former champions knew they had the trophy secured and, as the final buzzer blew, scenes of jubilation fell on the Lightning squad while the Pulse players huddled together in disappointment.

Captain Panagarry, who has had a difficult season off court with her wife undergoing cancer treatment, ran across the court and leapt into the arms of Cholhok before Lightning’s players huddled together, cheering in elation.

This marked the final time fans will get to see players in action before this summer’s World Cup, where attentions will now turn for many of the Super League’s star players heading to South Africa.

Earlier, Manchester Thunder beat Surrey Storm 55-38 in the play-off match for third and fourth place, the curtain raiser to the Grand Final.

Quarter-time scores

Q1 – 17-13

Q2 – 31-29

Q3 – 39-43

Q4 – 57-48

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