Tokomaru maintained their unbeaten record and wrapped up the first round premier netball title at Stadium 2000 on Tuesday night – but it was a close-run thing.
They came out of their match against Pelorus with a 48-47 victory, holding their nerve through the final stages of a scrappy, but highly entertaining encounter.
Pelorus needed to beat Toko by five or more goals to pip the Picton side for the first round trophy but in the end would have just settled for a win over their fellow 2019 finalists.
Eight goals adrift at the halfway stage after a horror second quarter, won 17-8 by Toko, Pelorus showed resilience to fight back into the equation and were within three at the 45-minute mark.
The final quarter was frantic, from both sides, with turnovers aplenty and pressure ramped up at both ends of the court.
In the end it was Toko’s ability to convert less possession into more goals during the final stanza that decided the issue.
While Pelorus battled to find a way into their shooting circle, Toko often used high balls to find their ace shooter, Haze Tepuia, who landed 40 of his 42 attempts.
Pelorus will be disappointed to lose a match in which they won three of the four quarters, but will take heart from a gutsy effort throughout court, led by the ever-improving Oriana Houra, Jalen King and Jordan Peipi in defence, Laura Murphy, Jenna Seabrook in midcourt and shooters Paige Lovell, who went off court with an injury late in the final quarter, plus Olivia Pinkerton.
However, the night and the first round belong to Tokomaru. They are a formidable unit, combining defensive grit with attacking prowess. Defenders Michaela Boaz, Chloe Devir and Eden Te Huki are turning into a formidable unit, while the Wilson sisters in midcourt provide thrust and vision.
Their attack is based on the shooting accuracy of Tepuia but his combination and circle movement alongside the ever-reliable Gemma Hika is key to their success.
If tonight’s match-up, and last week’s thriller as Toko edged out Harlequins, is anything to go on, the forthcoming finals series should make exciting viewing.
The evening’s other two games were hard-fought but with divergent scorelines, not as compelling.
First up SMOG showed their experience and ability to control a game when they accounted for Marlborough Girls’ College 70-55. Two strong first quarters did the damage for SMOG, earning them a 12-goal advantage at halftime, which they extended to 15 by the end of the match as MGC tightened up their defence and maintained possession better.
SMOG’s best were midcourters Katie Bradley and Anna Thomas, Bonnie Morris in defence and sharp shooter Anna Gardiner. Skipper Mya Wiapo, midcourter Anika Moetaua, the versatile Fiaalii Solomona and shooter Taila Town impressed for the students.
In a physical encounter on court two, Harlequins won all four quarters against Awatere, prevailing 69-38 in another high-scoring clash.
Young defender Jackson McLaren, midcourter and goal attack Simone Pedersen, shooters Lauren Murray and Stacey Hopkins plus the effervescent Mikayla Avant shone for the Quins.
Awatere, who utilized 11 players, were well served by keeper Harriet Ryan, shooter Aimee Jones, Courtney Ryan and micourter Kim Andrews.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 48 (Haze Tepuia 40/42, Gemma Hika 8/13) Pelorus Edridge Contracting 47 (Paige Lovell 33/54, Olivia Pinkerton 13/17, Courtney Avery 1/3). Quarter scores (winning team first): 12-13, 17-8, 11-16, 8-10.
Harlequins Radich Law 69 (Lauren Murray 38/49, Stacey Hopkins 24/31, Simone Pedersen 7/11) Awatere 38 (Aimee Jones 29/43, Hannah McCabe 8/11, Elizabeth Solly 1/1, Tori McCulloch 0/2). Quarter scores: 16-9, 20-12, 17-8, 16-9.
SMOG Good Home 70 (Kate Gaudin 10/15, Anna Gardiner 46/61, Isabella Rohloff 14/20) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 55 (Taila Town 34/44, Fiaalii Solomona 4/8, Naia Lawrence 17/22). Quarter scores: 19-15, 20-12, 16-13, 15-15.
Standings after round one: Tokomaru 15, Harlequins 13, Pelorus 11, SMOG 8, MGC 3, Awatere 1.