Loughborough Lightning 59 Leeds Rhinos 51 - Coach Ryan looks for alternate route to play-offs after Leeds Rhinos fall agonisingly short

Fans were back at the Copperbox and witnessed a thrilling fixture, but Dan Ryan’s side was unable to maintain the momentum against one of the league’s title favourites.

Leeds Rhinos co-captain Fi Toner switched positions against Lightning but came off injured towards the end. Picture: Ben Lumley Photography.

With the last play-off place firmly in his sight, Ryan made a change to his usual starting line-up, with co-captain Fi Toner coming in at wing defence. Amelia Hall also returned to the Rhinos’ squad after missing the previous two games.

Loughborough Lightning came into the game off the back of a win in the previous day’s match against Dragons, with a semi-final spot already confirmed.

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Lightning head coach Sara Francis-Bayman reckons Rhinos are the most dangerous side in the league and Leeds lived up to the billing. Rhinos’ quick transitions from turnovers into the inner circle allowed them to score three quick goals before Lightning eased into the game. The first quarter ended level, with both teams 12 goals apiece. An exciting second quarter saw a very physical contest, with the momentum shifting between both sides. A couple of excellent lay ups by Wallam enabled Rhinos to close Lightning’s initial lead and the first half drew to a close on 26-26.

Leeds Rhinos' Amelia Hall was back in action against Loughborough after missing the previous two games. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Vitality Netball Superleague.

The third quarter commenced with no changes for either side, with Loughborough exerting defensive pressure on the Rhinos centre pass. This allowed Lightning to break away, with Cholhok adding to her goal tally this season. As the quarter drew to a close, Toner was taken off court due to an injury, with her side now trailing Loughborough 38-45.

Emily Hollingworth was brought on to replace Toner for Rhinos, but the gap proved too big for them to close.

The game finished 51-59 in Lightnings favour, with Ryan hoping a semi-final position is not out of question yet.

Leeds Rhinos play again on Monday evening against Surrey Storm.

Leeds Rhinos' head coach, Dan Ryan. Picture: Gary Longbottom/JPImedia.

Leeds Rhinos: Tuaine Keenan, Vicki Oyesola, Fi Toner, Jade Clarke, Brie Grierson, Rhea Dixon, Donnell Wallam.

Loughborough Lightning: Sam May, Jas Odeogberin, Beth Cobden, Nat Panagarry, Hannah Joseph, Suzie Liverseidge, Mary Cholhok.