Two of the semifinalists in the Marlborough premier netball competition were decided at Stadium 2000 on Tuesday night, with three sides left to scrap for the remaining two places.
Pelorus and Tokomaru will contest the play-offs, no matter what eventuates in the final week of round robin matches next Tuesday.
Pelorus made sure of their place with a 47-39 victory over Harlequins, who are now locked in a three-way battle for the final play-off positions with SMOG and Marlborough Girls’ College, whose upset 65-63 victory over Tokomaru kept them in the title hunt.
Awatere are the only side who definitely won’t be featuring in the semis, despite picking up a bonus point in their 57-52 loss to SMOG on Tuesday.
As has been the case over the past month, results were unpredictable last week, teams paying a hefty price for small lapses in concentration and intensity.
Tokomaru, fresh from a morale-boosting win over Pelorus last week, were punished for a slow start against a revitalized MGC team.
Trailing by nine going into the final quarter Toko finally found their rhythm, clawing back seven goals as the students began to falter with the finish line in sight, but came up short.
MGC were able to create pressure on the ball meant for Toko’s formidable shooting duo of Haze Tepuia and Gemma Hika, picking up enough turnovers to build momentum. At the other end, Anna Gardiner and Taila Town both converted at a high percentage to ensure Toko’s mistakes were punished, Gardiner often scoring from long range.
Athletic midcourters Mya Wiapo and Eleri James-Sitters were influential in slowing Toko’s flow, along with circle defenders Olivia Robinson and Oakley Tepuia.
The Picton side were far from their ruthless best, but Brooke Horton stood out on defence, along with Savannah Lawrence, while Kayla Wilson glided through midcourt and fed the circle well.
If Toko were left rueing a slow start, Harlequins were even tardier out of the blocks.
Down by 12 at halftime they had reduced the margin to eight by the final whistle but overcoming the early deficit was always going to be a problem against such as efficient outfit as Pelorus.
The midcourt trio of Kelsie Fitzpatrick, Jenna Gilbert and Jordan Peipi gelled well, while the return of Oriana Houra in defence added options at the back, alongside the ever-reliable Courtney Taufa.
Paige Lovell carried the majority of the shooting load, putting up 80 percent of her side’s shots, many from distance.
Quins were well served by wing attack Maighan Watson, who never stopped trying, shooter Lauren Murray and their long-limbed defender Jackson McLaren.
The evening’s final match also looked headed for a decisive outcome after SMOG, perhaps stung by their last-round loss to the Tussock Jumpers, pulled away to a healthy seven-goal lead at the first break. With mobile shooters Kate Gaudin and Lucy Barrett regularly hitting the target and the experienced Bonnie Morris directing traffic at the back, they seemed well in control.
But Awatere have proved they are made of stern stuff of late and the shared the second quarter, then took out the third by seven goals to level the scores at 39-39 heading into the final 15 minutes.
However, their recovery merely signaled another SMOG spurt, the Ladies in Black producing a 12-4 run to begin the last stanza and create enough distance between the sides to allow them a relatively comfortable buffer when the final whistle blew.
Wing attack Ella-Rose Hammond, centre Mereana Ave and wing defence Jesse Volavola were instrumental in SMOG’s late revival, while middies Nicole Witterick and Courtney Ryan, plus the indefatigable Aimee Jones and the accurate Tracee Lee shone for Awatere.
Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 65 (Anna Gardiner 39/47, Taila Town 26/28) Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 63 (Haze Tepuia 50/55, Gemma Hika 13/19). Quarter scores (winning team first): 15-16, 19-12, 17-14, 14-21.
Pelorus Edridge Contracting 47 (Paige Lovell 42/58, Laura Murphy 5/14) Harlequins Radich Law 39 (Lauren Murray 18/24, Liv Hodson 15/20, Hayley Marfell 6/6. Quarter scores: 14-9, 14-7, 12-11, 7-12.
SMOG Good Home 57 (Lucy Barrett 18/22, Kate Gaudin 39/45) Awatere 52 (Tracee Lee 17/21, Aimee Jones 35/44). Quarter scores: 15-8, 13-13, 11-18, 18-13.
Round three standings: Tokomaru 10, Pelorus 10, SMOG 7, Harlequins 6, MGC 6, Awatere 3.
Next week: Harlequins v SMOG; Pelorus v MGC; Tokomaru v Awatere. Semifinals on August 27 (Tuesday), final on September 7 (Saturday).