Three of the four premier netball semifinalists have been confirmed after Tuesday’s action at Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000.
Tokomaru all but clinched top qualifying position with a commanding 76-52 win over SMOG, sitting five points ahead of Harlequins with two qualifying rounds of play before the semis on September 8.
The Quins were able to keep the pressure on Toko for second round honours with a comprehensive 69-23 victory over bottom-placed Awatere.
Pelorus sit comfortably in third place, beating the rapidly-improving Marlborough Girls’ College side 43-38 in the evening’s closest game.
Playing in front of a deserted spectator area, Harlequins kicked the night’s action off with a 60-minute display against the Tussock Jumpers.
Despite the early loss of defender Mikayla Avant with a leg injury Quins quickly regrouped and turned on an impressive all-court display.
Jackson McLaren, Sophie and Olivia Robinson, plus Katie Cunningham kept the pressure on Awatere’s attack throughout, creating turnovers aplenty. The extra possession was quickly relayed through midcourt, via the trusty and creative duo of Bridget Gane and Simone Pedersen. Up front Stacey Hopkins and Lauren Murray, who worked superbly in and out of the circle, ensured the scoreboard kept ticking over.
Kim Andrews was impressive in midcourt for the Tussocks, who used 10 players, including coach Kate Shadbolt, but were unable to find their rhythm on a tough night. Defenders Dee Teddy and Harriet Ryan, plus the ever-reliable Aimee Jones battled hard throughout.
The closest encounter of the evening featured the MGC side, who have shown some threatening form in recent weeks, against a Pelorus side yet to fully hit their straps.
A compelling first quarter quickly set the tone. With shooter Paige Lovell finding her range early, Pelorus raced to a 17-10 lead, an advantage they never relinquished, despite MGC narrowing the gap on occasion, plus winning the second and fourth quarters.
Pelorus were boosted by the return of Kelsie Fitzpatrick, who slotted straight back in to a slick midcourt combination with centre Laura Murphy and Jordan Peipi.
Oriana Houra, one of the most impressive defenders in the competition, teamed up with Jalen King and Riana Burger to frustrate the MGC attack as the match turned into something of a defensive tussle late in the piece.
At the other end of the court, Mya Wiapo and Taryn Breen were also in fine fettle, helping the students restrict Pelorus to just four goals in the final 15 minutes.
Abbey Moody, Anika Moetaua, Millie Wensley and Mele Moli had their moments in midcourt for MGC, keeping the youngsters close enough to clinch a handy bonus point, but they will rue a few crucial turnovers late in the match that would have had them even closer.
The final match of the oddly-quiet evening saw the undefeated Toko outfit lift their game in the second quarter to account for SMOG.
With possession even and shooting stats similar the first quarter was tight, but the defending champs stepped on the gas in the second stanza. All-court defence created turnovers aplenty as Toko enjoyed a 25-11 goal attempt advantage and, with shooting ace Haze Tepuia extending his range but retaining his accuracy, they shot out to a 42-26 lead, effectively shutting out the Ladies in Black at the halfway stage.
Again, the Wilson sisters [Hana, Kayla and Dana] controlled midcourt, finding new ways to ensure the combination of Tepuia and Gemma Hika were fully employed.
In Eden Te Huki, Michaela Boaz and Chloe Devir, their stocks in the defensive circle are impressive.
SMOG welcomed back Sarah Hammond in a starting role and had the services of impressive defender Lina Pale, while shooters Anna Gardiner, Isabella Rohloff and Kate Gaudin all registered top percentages.
However, Toko put up 26 more shots overall, and with their shooters going at 88 percent, that was more than enough to win.
Harlequins Radich Law 69 (Stacey Hopkins 40/61, Lauren Murray 29/45) Awatere 23 (Aimee Jones 15/23, Hannah McCabe 5/5 Elizabeth Solly 3/6). Quarter scores (winning team first): 16-6, 16-4, 17-5, 20-8.
Pelorus Edridge Contracting 43 (Paige Lovell 31/44, Olivia Pinkerton 9/23, Courtney Avery 3/9) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 38 (Taila Town 17/27, Fiaalii Solomona 21/30). Quarter scores: 17-10, 12-13, 10-7, 4-8.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 76 (Haze Tepuia 57/61, Gemma Hika 19/25) SMOG Good Home 52 (Kate Gaudin 12/13, Anna Gardiner 15/17, Isabella Rohloff 25/30). Quarter scores (winning team first): 20-17, 22-9, 16-11, 18-15.
Standings after the third week of round two: Tokomaru 24, Harlequins 19, Pelorus 17, SMOG 11, MGC 7, Awatere 1.