The fourth semi-finalist has been confirmed for the forthcoming premier netball play-offs.
SMOG booked the final place in the semis with a nail-biting 49-48 win over Harlequins at Stadium 2000 on Tuesday, leaving fifth-placed Marlborough Girls’ College, who played their part with a 54-36 win over Awatere, too far behind to reach the business end of this unusual season.
In the final game of a night again marked by the absence of spectators, and the atmosphere they create, Tokomaru continued their unbeaten run with a comfortable 50-33 win over Pelorus.
However, the game of the night was undoubtedly the clash between traditional rivals Harlequins and SMOG, the “Ladies in Black” needing three points to push them clear of the fast-improving MGC outfit.
This match was close throughout, Quins ahead by one at quarter time all square at halftime.
A 14-10 third quarter win eased Quins ahead 38-34 as SMOG struggled to retain possession and began to slip off the pace.
However, the quickly regained their composure in the final stanza and with shooters Anna Gardiner and Kate Gaudin in accurate form, they were on level terms with six minutes to play.
SMOG then established a one-goal lead, which proved critical. Quins repeatedly levelled the scores but their rivals always managed the go-ahead goal and had their nose just in front when the final whistle blew.
SMOG used the bare seven players, midcourters Anna Thomas, Ella Donald and Katie Bradley, plus defenders Bonnie Morris and Karli Murphy providing stiff all-court defence plus energetic attacking momentum.
Harlequins will rue missed opportunities to play their rivals out of the game in the early stages of the final quarter. They were well led by Lauren Murray, with Stacey Hopkins, Olivia Robinson, Simone Pedersen, Bridget Gane and Katie Cunningham having their moments in a thrilling, if at times scrappy, encounter.
Tuesday’s early game pitted MGC against Awatere, the students leading throughout, although not able to pull more than 10 goals away from the gritty Tussocks until the final quarter.
MGC suffered an early setback, losing influential goal attack Fiaalii Solomona in the early stages with a leg injury. Regular midcourter Mele Moli stepped into the goal circle and showed a wide array of skills. Also prominent for MGC was shooter Taila Town and midcourter Anika Moetaua, but it was defender Mya Wiapo who caught the eye. Her anticipation, decisiveness and athleticism provided a nightmare for the Awatere attackers. Alongside her, Taryn Breen had another top game, her fast hands in the circle creating several turnovers.
Awatere were competitive throughout, led by middies Kim Andrews and Ashley Childs, shooters Aimee Jones and Hannah McCabe, plus Dee Teddy and Harriet Ryan in defence.
Pelorus and Toko fought out last year’s premier final, the Picton side winning by five goals.
On Tuesday they prevailed by 17, over a Pelorus side who look to be saving their best for the semis. They have talent aplenty, even with key shooter Paige Lovell out with injury, but were unable to mount a serious 60-minute challenge to the champions.
They were competitive in the first quarter but, after going behind by 10 at halftime, were unable to stay in the game despite having an equal share of possession and putting up almost the same amount of shots at goal.
Toko rolled on like a well-oiled machine, for most of the time, lifting their intensity when called on and looking more and more like hot favourites for a premier double.
Eden Te Huki was a top performer for Toko tonight, along with Dana Wilson, who is becoming more prominent as the season goes on.
Laura Murphy, Oriana Houra, Jalen King and were strong for a side who will be pleased to have restricted Toko to 50 goals, a low score by their recent standards.
Tonight sees the final week of round robin play, with the semi-finals on September 8 and the final on September 19.
SMOG Good Home 49 (Kate Gaudin 19/23, Anna Gardiner 30/36) Harlequins Radich Law 48 (Stacey Hopkins 37/55, Lauren Murray 11/19). Quarter scores (winning team first): 12-13, 12-11, 10-14, 15-10.
Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 54 (Taila Town 43/54, Mele Moli 11/22) Awatere 36 (Aimee Jones 11/25, Hannah McCabe 25/42). Quarter scores: 15-8, 12-9, 12-12, 15-7.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 50 (Haze Tepuia 35/38, Gemma Hika 15/19) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 33 (Olivia Pinkerton 9/17, Courtney Avery 10/19, Jordan Peipi 14/20) Quarter scores: 13-10, 12-5, 13-9, 12-9.
Standings after the fourth week of round two: Tokomaru 27, Harlequins 20, Pelorus 17, SMOG 14, MGC 10, Awatere 1.