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Then there were four…

Outstanding SMOG defender Mya Wiapo rejects this shot from Pelorus goal attack Olivia Pinkerton on Tuesday night. Photo: Peter Jones.

Marlborough’s 2019 premier netball semifinalists have been decided after three contrasting encounters at Stadium 2000 last Tuesday.

Tonight, Tokomaru, who finished top qualifier courtesy of an 82-39 victory over Awatere, will meet SMOG in one play-off. The Ladies in Black enter the semifinal frame in fourth position, despite going down 46-42 to Harlequins in the game of the night.

The other semi will see Quins, who qualified third, take on second-ranked Pelorus who ended MGC’s play-off prospects with a 57-40 victory.

Although Toko and Pelorus ended the third round tied on 13 points, the Picton club take out the round and become top qualifier thanks to a vastly-superior points for and against differential.

Tuesday’s early game provided the most entertainment, especially with the participants, plus MGC, locked in a tight tussle for semifinal spots.

Harlequins shot out to an early lead, creating turnovers throughout court which their shooters, especially the in-form Lauren Murray, readily converted.

Down by seven at the first break, SMOG showed the resilience that has become their late-season hallmark, staying in the fight and pulling within three at halftime, shooters Lucy Barrett and Kate Gaudin missing only one goal in the quarter. Quins were forced to make a change shortly before the half hour mark, Murray leaving the court with a knee injury.

SMOG continued their resurgence in the third quarter, the arrival of Katie Cunningham sparking more defensive pressure, alongside the ever-energetic Bonnie Morris. By the third break they had levelled the scores, with the possession stakes now relatively even.

The final stanza was also tight, SMOG ultimately being left to rue a couple of missed shots of goal and then a wild pass or two as the clock ticked down and Quins nailed the final five goals to move ahead of their traditional rivals.

The defensive circle work of Jackson McLaren and Hayley Lammas was a feature for the Quins, both players preying on loose ball and exerting maximum pressure on their rivals throughout.

By the time they began their match against Pelorus, MGC knew they had to win to reach the semis and they began as if they meant business.

At halftime they trailed by just four, and were well in the hunt, on the back of an outstanding defensive effort by Mya Wiapo who, in conjunction with Olivia Robinson, swooped on any chances to turn over ball.

The third quarter though was another story, MGC losing their way while Pelorus upped their game, lifting the pace of play and dominating possession 27 goal attempts to 12.

With shooter Paige Lovell in imperious form, often from afar, they quickly pulled clear of the students to lead by 13 at three quarter time. The final stanza was more of the same, the Pelorus midcourt of Jenna Gilbert, Jordan Peipi and Kelsie Fitzpatrick efficient and controlled, while Courtney Taufa continued to pick of interceptions at the back.

The MGC side can now turn their attention to their tilt at the South Island secondary schools tournament, beginning September 3, but will have to maintain their usual high standard throughout if they are to trouble some of the other top colleges.

The evening’s final game saw Awatere’s final outing of the season.

The Tussocks have provided plenty of entertainment this year, improving as they went along. With nothing at stake against Toko they played with abandon and a smile on their faces, throwing themselves around court right up to the final whistle, but were no match for the Picton crew, who score at a dizzy pace when the reins are let loose. They put up 98 shots during the 60 minutes, allowing their opponents just 54 goal attempts. Haze Tepuia, who continues to impress with his accuracy and court work, dropped in 53 of his 60 shots, his partnership with Gemma Hika in the attacking circle providing a major headache for defenders who are unable to concentrate on one or the other.

Despite unpredictability being a feature of this year’s premier competition, Toko and Pelorus will start as early favourites for the semis. However, both Harlequins and SMOG have shown over many seasons that they love a final, so no-one will be writing off their chances, setting up a riveting conclusion to an entertaining season.

Scores:

Harlequins Radich Law 46 (Lauren Murray 15/16, Liv Hodson 22/35, Hayley Marfell 9/15) SMOG Good Home 42 (Lucy Barrett 23/27, Kate Gaudin 19/24). Quarter scores (winning team first): 16-9, 11-15, 10-7, 12-8.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 82 (Haze Tepuia 53/60, Gemma Hika 29/38) Awatere 39 (Tracee Lee 15/21, Aimee Jones 24/33). Quarter scores: 17-12, 22-10, 21-9, 22-8.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 57 (Paige Lovell 39/55, Olivia Pinkerton 17/24, Courtney Taufa 1/1) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 40 (Anna Gardiner 18/24, Taila Town 12/16, Isabella Rohloff 10/12). Quarter scores: 12-11, 11-8, 18-9, 16-12.

Round three final standings: Tokomaru 13 (differential +66), Pelorus 13 (differential +39), Harlequins 9, SMOG 8, MGC 6, Awatere 3.

Semifinal draw (tonight): Tokomaru v SMOG; Pelorus v Harlequins.

Final will be played on September 7 (Saturday).

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