While there were no blow-out scores on Tuesday evening, three teams came away from Stadium 2000 with decisive wins.
Following the second week of Marlborough premier netball’s third round, Pelorus and Tokomaru sit side-by-side at the top of the points table after beating Awatere and SMOG respectively, 51-35 and 60-51, while Harlequins made a final round statement with a 54-43 victory over Marlborough Girls’ College.
The evening’s first match appeared to be going all the way to the wire, especially when SMOG led Toko by five goals at halftime. A low error-rate coupled with some slick shooting from Kate Gaudin and Lucy Barrett, tenacious work in midcourt by Katie Bradley and Sarah Hammond, plus athletic defensive work by Bonnie Morris and Jesse Volavola gave the Ladies in Black a distinct edge in the first half hour.
However, Toko are nothing if not resolute and in Gemma Hika, who shot at 100 percent, and their main target Haze Tepuia, they have a scoring combination who can rack up goals at a serious pace.
They won the third quarter by five, levelling the scores with 15 minutes to go.
Then the Picton crew turned on the afterburners. While SMOG’s error rate allowed them just 10 shots at goal in the decisive period, Toko put up 24, underlining the difference in composure and finishing power.
The Wilson twins, Kayla and Hana, again demonstrated their silky skills in midcourt, while Michaela Boaz, Brooke Horton and the Lawrence sisters, Savannah and Naia, contributed strongly to a hard-fought but deserved victory.
The following match, between Harlequins and MGC followed a vastly different pattern, Quins jumping out of the blocks quickly and opening up a 14-goal lead by halftime, a gulf the students were never going to bridge.
With shooters Lauren Murray and Liv Hodson taking full advantage of the wealth of possession and turnover ball that came their way, Quins appeared a genuine championship contender. Bridget Gane, Sophie Robinson and Maighan Watson provided drive and direction in midcourt while Hayley Lammas and the ever-improving youngster Jackson McLaren punished any wayward passes and missed shots at the defensive end, despite missing the services of regular Taylor Rogers through an injury that may keep her out for the remainder of the season.
Anna Gardiner was a tower of strength for MGC, especially in the second half, the goal shooter dropping in 19 goals from 20 attempts, many from long distance.
Oakley Tepuia and Lily Tiueti impressed on defense for an MGC side who are now under pressure to make the semifinals.
The evening’s last match featured Awatere, the surprise package of recent weeks who are improving week by week, against round two winners Pelorus.
Ultimately the favourites prevailed, but not without a struggle. They won three of the four quarters, drawing the other, but it was the first period of play that made the most difference.
After 15 minutes Awatere trailed 14-5, a deficit they never seriously threatened to bridge from then on.
Pelorus, with Courtney Taufa and Kelsie Fitzpatrick in the defensive circle, restricted the fluency of Awatere’s attack for long spells, while midcourters Jenna Gilbert, Laura Murphy and Jordan Peipi created space and found good angles for reliable shooters Paige Lovell and Olivia Pinkerton. Despite the loss of key defenders in Danielle Moffatt and Oriana Houra, Pelorus continue to shuffle their playing cards and find a way to get the job done.
Awatere’s skipper Nicole Witterick, named MVP for the previous round, was again influential, while Aimee Jones and Ashleigh Childs, in the attacking circle, battled hard to make the most of the ball that came their way.
Despite letting this one slip, the Tussock Jumpers showed resilience in preventing a score blow-out, underlining their threat to all comers in this final round.
Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 60 (Haze Tepuia 50/57, Gemma Hika 10/10) SMOG Good Home 51 (Lucy Barrett 21/25, Kate Gaudin 30/32. Quarter scores (winning team first): 16-18, 10-13, 15-10, 19-10.
Pelorus Edridge Contracting 51 (Olivia Pinkerton 8/13, Paige Lovell 39/55, Laura Murphy 4/8) Awatere 35 (Tracee Lee 2/6, Aimee Jones 25/39, Ashleigh Childs 8/17). Quarter scores: 14-5, 13-13, 13-8, 11-9.
Harlequins Radich Law 54 (Lauren Murray 31/47, Liv Hodson 23/26) Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 43 (Isabella Rohloff 9/12, Anna Gardiner 29/36, Taila Town 5/5). Quarter scores: 15-5, 17-13, 9-14, 13-11.
Round three standings: Pelorus 6, Tokomaru 6, Harlequins 3, Awatere 2, MGC 2, SMOG 1.