Perhaps taking a lead from the Silver Ferns’ efforts at the Netball World Cup, Marlborough’s premier netballers produced some close, entertaining encounters at Stadium 2000 on Tuesday.
The evening’s first match was decided by a single goal, the next game was drawn, while the night’s final game was tight most of the way through.
The opening game featured the previous round’s top team, Pelorus, against the bottom-placed side, SMOG. Both sides had played on Sunday, SMOG in a promotion/relegation battle and Pelorus in the Tasman Trophy encounter.
On form Pelorus started as firm favourite but SMOG, perhaps buoyed by their hefty win on Sunday, lifted their game and showed they cannot be dismissed as semifinal contenders.
In the end, Pelorus prevailed 49-48, having just enough goals in the bank to stave off a determined SMOG final quarter revival.
The loss of defender Oriana Houra, who was injured on Sunday, and shooter Olivia Pinkerton, early in tonight’s game, disrupted Pelorus who began with Courtney Taufa and Kelsie Fitzpatrick in the defensive circle but had to make early changes, Taufa moving to the attacking end and Carrie Anderson coming on at goal keep.
Despite the reshuffle Pelorus began strongly, racing out to a 17-10 first quarter lead before, as they did all match, SMOG bounced back to take the second stanza 14-11 and trail by just four at the halftime break.
Pelorus edged SMOG by one in the third quarter to take a five-goal lead into the final 15 minutes and although the Ladies in Black, led by a superb 93 percent shooting performance from Kate Gaudin, clawed back four of the deficit, they ran out of time to close the gap completely.
Paige Lovell was reliable under the hoop for Pelorus while Jenna Gilbert, alternating between centre and wing defence, provided midcourt energy and vision, along with Laura Murphy who was used in three positions.
SMOG brought on coach Janine Jordaan in the second spell, offering them more height in the attacking circle and, when their feeders found their range, this tactic began to work effectively. Defender Bonnie Morris and midcourter Katie Bradley showed their experience as the match began to tighten up.
Awatere underlined their improvement and showed they mean business in the final round with a 52-52 draw against the more-favoured Marlborough Girls’ College side.
The Tussock Jumpers, who have won only once in the top grade, went mighty close to repeating the dose against the students who held a one-goal lead in the final few seconds only to lose possession, allowing Tracee Lee to drop in the equalizing goal.
It was no more than Awatere deserved for a gutsy performance, led by skipper Nicole Witterick in the centre’s bib and their whole-hearted goal attack Aimee Jones, who handled the bulk of the shooting and grabbed some crucial rebounds.
Ashleigh Childs, at wing attack, controlled play superbly, her combination with Witterick and the circle attackers improving each week.
At the back Courtney Ryan, Harriet Ryan and Demelza Teddy battled all the way, disrupting MGC’s flow of possession and forcing turnovers.
Their rivals led by four at three quarter time and should have put the game to bed. Wing attack Ella Donald, Eleri James-Sitters, shooters Anna Gardiner and Taila Town, plus defender Mya Wiapo, all had their good moments but the team was unable to step up in the final 15 minutes when the game hung in the balance.
The night’s final match provided a decent turnaround from their previous encounter. The last time Harlequins and Tokomaru met, Quins prevailed by 10 goals. Tonight the boot was firmly on the other foot, Toko winning 58-45.
Up until halftime the match was close. Quins won the first quarter by four, Toko taking the second by six. A 15-12 third stanza allowed Toko to take a five-goal advantage into the final period and they made no mistake when it came to closing this one out, winning the last quarter 17-9.
Again, Toko’s attacking end was to the fore, Haze Tepuia and Gemma Hika converting most of the possession that came their way. Twins Kayla and Hana Wilson’s athleticism in midcourt, the doughty defence of Naia and Savannah Lawrence, plus Michaela Boaz’s anticipation meant there was little respite for Quins’ attack and defence.
The return of Lauren Murray was a boost for Quins, the reliable shooter operating at a creditable 82 percent after a lengthy break from the game.
Defender Jackson McLaren was a ball of energy, as was Maighan Watson, while keeper Hayley Lammas grabbed some important interceptions.
Toko coach Vanessa Hika said the close games were, “a great way to start the third round”.
“It’s anybody’s competition, it just depends how you turn up on the night.”
Pelorus Edridge Contracting 49 (Olivia Pinkerton 0/1, Paige Lovell 31/39, Courtney Taufa 15/20, Laura Murphy 3/5) SMOG Good Home 48 (Lucy Barrett 11/15, Kate Gaudin 28-30, Janine Jordaan 9/15). Quarter scores (winning team first): 17-10, 11-14, 12-11, 9-13.
Awatere 52 (Tracee Lee 13/18, Aimee Jones 39/49) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 52 (Isabella Rohloff 14/18, Taila Town 11/12, Anna Gardiner 27/32). Quarter scores (Awatere first): 13-15, 14-13, 11-14, 14-10.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 58 (Haze Tepuia 36/41, Gemma Hika 22/33) Harlequins Radich Law 45 (Hayley Marfell 6/14, Lauren Murray 39/47). Quarter scores: 10-14, 16-10, 15-12, 17-9.
Round three standings: Pelorus 3, Tokomaru 3, Awatere 2, MGC 2, SMOG 1, Harlequins 0.