31 Aug Clinical Cougars contain the Thunder
The Brisbane North Cougars remain at the top of the HART Sapphire Series ladder following a decisive 61-45 victory over the USC Thunder.
The Thunder played their first home game of the season on Saturday as they faced the unbeaten Cougars. Any benefits of playing at USC Stadium were masked by another robust performance from their opponents, who appear to be determined to improve upon their second-place finish in last year’s HART Sapphire Series competition.
Binnian Hunt was out injured for the Thunder and Garry Pashen handed her bib to Chloe Bingham, who started alongside Annabelle Lawrie in attack. The pair formed a strong partnership in the first quarter and Bingham’s strength combined with Lawrie’s movement caused issues for the Cougars defence as the Sunshine Coast side claimed an 11-10 lead.
Coach Liz White must have stirred her players at quarter-time because the Cougars dominated after the break. Mia Stower proved her worth to the Cougars and the Queensland Firebirds by excelling in the ‘Super Shot’ range, while Rylie Holland was reliable as ever in front of goal as the Cougars outscored the Thunder 19-8 in the second quarter.
The final score line is testament to the quality and versatility of the Cougars attack. Thunder Goalkeeper Sarahpheinna Woulf was the stand-out performer for her team and next to defensive partner Lily-May Catling acted as a persistent obstacle in the air and on the ground. Nevertheless, the Cougars were able to exploit what little chances they were afforded.
“It was a really good performance from the Cougars,” said Lawrie, who was named in the Sunshine Coast Lightning team to face the West Coast Fever the following day.
“They are a really clinical team. We just couldn’t bring it tonight but a few of those quarters were really good.”
Josie Bingham replaced her younger sister Chloe in the Thunder attack close to half-time and grew in confidence as the match progressed, assisting Lawrie in scoring 13 goals in the third quarter and keeping Cougars Goalkeeper Remi Kamo constantly engaged.
“It is good to step out with all the different girls they put on the court,” said Lawrie.
“I’ve never played with Josie, so it’s been really good just to come together.”
Adrienne Keeffe made her HART Sapphire Series debut for the Thunder after impressing in the Ruby team, while White gave valuable court time to Goal Shooter Martina Reekers, last year’s Ruby Series MVP, as the Cougars closed in on the victory.
The Thunder produced a solid performance but were ultimately their own worst enemies, as highlighted by captain Ashlee Unie being caught offside late on to gift Reekers another goal. The Cougars punished their errors incisively and themselves capitalised upon the chances created to finish with a deserved 16-point win.
Next week the Cougars will seek revenge against the Wildcats in a repeat of the 2019 Grand Final. The Thunder face another stern test when they play the Jets.
USC Thunder 45 Brisbane North Cougars 61