Tokomaru flexed their premier netball muscle during another exciting night of premier netball at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000.
Two of Tuesday’s matches went right to the wire, the losing teams picking up bonus points for finishing within five goals.
Toko came away with a 61-58 win over Pelorus in a top-of-the-table clash, while defending champions SMOG picked up their first victory of the third round, downing Marlborough Girls’ College 50-45.
The night’s other match saw Harlequins run away with their clash against Awatere, prevailing 74-30.
The evening’s action opened with the Toko v Pelorus encounter, a match many predicted could be a dress rehearsal for the premier final on September 7. If next month’s title-decider provides as good a spectacle, the supporters will go home happy.
Tuesday’s clash was tight throughout. Pelorus opened strongly, racing out to a 13-4 advantage halfway through the first quarter as goal shoot Paige Lovell quickly got into her work, eventually nailing 15 of her 17 attempts in the first 15 minutes, most from long range.
Trailing by three heading into the second quarter, Toko clawed their way into a one-goal halftime lead, their primary shooter Haze Tepuia landing all 14 of his attempts on his way to a staggering 53 from 54 overall stat.
The beginning of the third quarter saw Pelorus rebound and quickly establish a four-goal lead, wing defence Jordan Peipi showing the way, but the loss of goal attack Olivia Pinkerton with an ankle injury slowed their momentum and once again Toko closed the gap, with the Wilson sisters Hana and Kayla, beginning to find more space in midcourt.
The final 15 minutes saw the score see-saw, both teams looking for a slight edge that would get them over the line.
That advantage came in the final few minutes, a couple of missed goals from Pelorus plus a turnover allowing Toko to forge a winning margin and pick up a major psychological boost heading into the business end of the season.
Outstanding for the victors were defensive players Michaela Boaz and Savannah Lawrence, but their win was built around the imposing accuracy of Tepuia, who is set to have a big say in the final stages of the season.
Pelorus were well served by Lovell, Peipi, Laura Murphy and Jenna Gilbert and will take some learnings from tonight’s loss. The return from maternity leave of defender Rianna Burger was a welcome sight for a team that have their fair share of injuries but now lead the competition on their own.
A revitalised SMOG outfit were also caught up in a thriller, but ultimately showed their big match experience to outlast MGC.
Again, this game could have gone either way. Indeed, when MGC went on an 8-2 run to open the final quarter it appeared the students may have found the formula but SMOG, with reliable shooters Kate Gaudin and Lucy Barrett to the fore, stopped throwing away ball and outscored their rivals 9-2 to shut the game down.
In the end it was MGC who would rue loose passes and poor option-taking as their attempts to play the game at high speed regularly came unstuck.
Bonnie Morris, Mereana Ave and Katie Cunningham performed well on defence for the victors, with Katie Bradley again providing the glue in midcourt.
Mya Wiapo and Olivia Robinson ensured SMOG’s shooters worked hard for success, while Ella Donald, Eleri James-Sitters and Anna Gardiner shone on attack.
The evening’s other game turned into something of a mis-match, especially with Awatere losing the influential Ashleigh Childs to an ankle injury in the first 10 minutes.
The resulting reshuffle disturbed the Tussock Jumpers’ rhythm and they never fully recovered, trailing Quins 18-7 at the first break and 43-14 by halftime. The scoring stats demonstrate the game’s flow, Harlequins putting up 101 shots, Awatere just 42 in 60 minutes.
Hayley Lammas and the ever-improving Jackson McLaren thrived at the defensive end for Quins while Lauren Murray and Liv Hodson produced high percentage shooting at the other. Bridget Gane, Sophie Robinson and Maighan Watson added to Quins’ overall supremacy.
Awatere got their usual whole-hearted effort from Demelza Teddy, Aimee Jones and Nicole Witterick, who wore the centre, wing attack, goal shoot and latterly goal attack bibs on a disjointed evening.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 61 (Haze Tepuia 53/54, Gemma Hika 8/14) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 58 (Olivia Pinkerton 7/7, Paige Lovell 42/50, Laura Murphy 9/12). Quarter scores (winning team first): 14-17, 16-12, 15-12, 16-17.
SMOG Good Home 50 (Lucy Barrett 24/30, Kate Gaudin 26/30) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 45 (Isabella Rohloff 12/17, Anna Gardiner 20/25, Taila Town 13/19). Quarter scores: 15-16, 12-8, 12-11, 11-10.
Harlequins Radich Law 74 (Lauren Murray 38/48, Liv Hodson 24/31, Hayley Marfell 12/22) Awatere 30 (Tracee Lee 4/6, Aimee Jones 21/28, Nicole Witterick 5/8). Quarter scores: 18-7, 25-7, 12-8, 19-8.
Round three standings: Tokomaru 9, Pelorus 7, Harlequins 6, SMOG 4, MGC 3, Awatere 2.