There is a long-held sporting idiom that suggests, “to be the best you have to beat the best”.
For most of the past decade the Harlequins premier netball team have set the pace on the local scene, either winning the title or reaching the final.
Consequently, challengers have to get past them if they have aspirations of lifting the silverware come season’s end.
Last Tuesday evening, Pelorus found out just how hard that mission is. After moving through the first three rounds unbeaten they came up against the Quins, also unbeaten, and left Stadium 2000 with a 46-37 defeat and plenty to dwell on.
Their ability to maintain intensity and momentum throughout the 60 minutes will be a concern. Although they lost key player Courtney Taufa to injury in the first half they still held a handy lead at halftime.
The resulting reshuffle didn’t appear to unsettle Pelorus who pushed on during the first half hour to lead 27-21. Kelsie Fitzpatrick, Jenna Gilbert and Claudia Ryan worked well in midcourt while the inspirational Danelle Moffat and Oriana Houra snapped up any loose ball at the back.
But after the break it all changed. A third quarter shut-out was the key, Quins allowing Pelorus just nine shots at goal, while they created 25 shooting opportunities. Quins finished much stronger, taking out the third quarter 15-5 and the final period 10-5 to strike first in what is likely to be an on-going rivalry this season
Their middies Bridget Gane, Mikayla Avant and Maighan Watson providing shooters Lauren Murray and Georgie Bryce with quality ball. Defenders Jackson McLaren, Hayley Lammas and Taylor Rogers lifted their game to put their rival shooters off theirs.
Harlequins stalwart Bridget Gane, who missed their previous week’s stuttering effort against Awatere, said there was a good feel about the 2019 side.
“It was nice that we kept our composure and our structure tonight.
“The scores were pretty low, but that was because of the number of turnovers … that’s because netball now has become a more defense-orientated game.
“Teams are working more on defense, putting structures in place to get intercepts and putting a lot more pressure on the feeders.”
Gane said the work of her side’s circle defenders had been a key to Quins’ success.
“Jackson, Hayley and Tayor all played well, picking up some really good rebounds and tips. Hayley hasn’t played for six years and this is a big step up for Jackson, but they are really starting to gel.
“It was so good that we got all 10 players on court tonight and everyone contributed.”
Like many observers, Gane feels the 2019 competition is particularly even. “It’s going to be really close, any team can topple any other and that’s what you want,” she added.
Meanwhile, Tokomaru had a superb shooting performance to thank for their 64-54 win over SMOG in the late game. Toko youngster Haze Tepuia landed an outstanding 51 goals from 51 attempts, a performance the great Irene van Dyk would have been proud of.
However, despite Tepuia’s stunning shooting, this game was tight almost all the way. At three quarter time the sides were level 44-44 before a 20-10 final quarter put the result beyond doubt.
Besides Tepuia, Hana Wilson, Kayla Wilson and Brooke Horton performed strongly, while Karli Murphy, Bonnie Morris and Katie Bradley shone for SMOG.
In the night’s early encounter Marlborough Girls’ College were quick out of the blocks against Awatere, their 19-7 first quarter advantage translated into a 58-40 victory at fulltime.
The Tussock Jumpers were left to rue a slow start, playing catch-up all night, and are destined for the promotion/relegation game at the end of round one.
MGC seemed to sit back after forging an early lead, but had things well in control throughout. Eleri James-Sitters, Olivia Robinson, Mya Wiapo and Isabella Rohloff stood out for the students, Aimee Jones, Harriet Ryan and hard-working centre Nicole Witterick the best of the Awatere side.
Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 58 (Oakley Tepuia 10/17, Isabella Rohloff 36/44, Anna Gardiner 12/17) Awatere 40 (Tracee Lee 12/22, Aimee Jones 28/42). Quarter scores (winning team first): 19-7, 14-10, 14-12, 11-11.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 64 (Haze Tepuia 51/51, Gemma Hika 13/17) SMOG Good Home 54 (Karli Murphy 34/42, L Barrett 2/4, Kate Gaudin 18/23) Quarter scores: 16-16, 13-15, 15-13, 20-10.
Harlequins Radich Law 46 (Lauren Murray 41/57, Hayley Marfell 3/6, Georgie Bryce 2/7) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 37 (Olivia Pinkerton 26/45, Courtney Taufa 6/9, Jordan Peipi 5/10). Quarter scores: 12-13, 9-14, 15-5, 10-5.
Standings: Harlequins 12, Pelorus 9, Tokomaru 8, MGC 6, SMOG 4, Awatere 0.
Draw for tonight (June 4): SMOG v Harlequins 6.16pm; Tokomaru v Awatere 7.45pm; Pelorus v MGC 8pm.