Smog Bayleys were crowned Tasman Trophy netball champions in dramatic fashion when they came back from an eight-goal deficit to beat Jacks OPD Richmond 53-51 in yesterday's final at Marlborough Lines Stadium, in Blenheim.
Smog shooters Cara Wiapo and Karli Murphy netted a goal each in the final minute of the final to clinch the tournament, capping off a spirited performance from the Blenheim side.
The feat was especially impressive considering they were missing the services of key players at both ends of the court, with defensive linchpin Micah Lindsay-Brown and goal shoot Rayna Olsen not available for the final. Their absence meant Smog had no-one on the bench in the tournament decider and coach Janine Jordaan was delighted at the heart shown by her side.
"They were awesome. They showed so much courage," she said.
It was the second time Smog have won the Tasman Trophy in the tournament's five-year history, with yesterday's beaten finalists victorious in the previous instalment in 2012.
But Smog were not willing to let the Nelson side go back to back, digging in during the second half to clinch the two-goal win. But it was all Jacks early in the match, the defending champions scoring the last six goals of the first quarter to take a commanding 16-9 lead into the first break.
A reshuffled Smog side took to the court in the second period, Katie Bradley moving from wing defence to wing attack, Jenny Marren from centre to wing defence and Anna Archie slotting into centre from wing attack. Although the changes were effective, with a much-improved Smog side stopping the bleeding of goals in the second quarter, Jacks still had ascendancy at halftime and took a 29-21 lead into the break.
It was their speed around the middle of the court and attacking circle, facilitated by centre Jodie Hikuroa and wing attack Tineill Stevenson, that gave the visitors plenty of attacking opportunities. Their quick attack combined with solid defence, buoyed by the impressive abilities of goal keep Renee McConochie, ensured Smog were unable to realise the attacking flow that has characterised their Marlborough premier division season.
However, Smog came out firing in the second half. Defensive hustle from their inspirational goal keep Melissa Brady limited Jacks' scoring opportunities, while the home side's midcourt started to play with the same speed as their opponents.
Although Smog managed to bring the score back to 35-34 in the third, clinical finishing from former Smog goal shoot Ani-Marie Waitai, who netted 17 goals from 19 attempts in the second half, ensured the visitors finished the quarter stronger to take a 41-36 lead into the final break.
Smog enjoyed a purple patch of their own early in the deciding quarter, outscoring Jacks 7-1 in the opening five minutes to grab a 43-42 lead, their first since the opening minutes.
The closing 10 minutes were predictably frantic. A noticeable lift in pace and intensity was a fair reflection of each team's desire to take home the silverware. The score sat at 50-all with 60 seconds to go - cue Wiapo and Murphy to step up and clinch the trophy, the Blenheim side's second Tasman title.
Earlier in the tournament, both Smog and Jacks breezed through their first-round and semifinal matches. Smog recorded a 56-48 win over Stoke NBS on Saturday, before accounting for Harlequins Radich Law 57-41 yesterday. Jacks' results were equally comfortable, beating Tokomaru Crafar Crouch 67-34 in their first match before overcoming Marlborough Girls' College Scaffold Marlborough 69-43.
In other results, MGC was the second most successful Marlborough side, notching up two wins from their three matches. They overcame Prices Pharmacy A 49-47 in a nail-biting match on Saturday, lost to Jacks in the semifinal before bouncing back to beat Harlequins Radich Law 59-51.
Quins Radich Law also recorded a tight win on Saturday, beating Richmond 53-50. However, they were unable to repeat their feat, going down to Smog and MGC yesterday.
Tokomaru had a hard weekend, losing all three of their matches. They went down to finalists Jacks 67-34 on Saturday, before losing to Prices Pharmacy 62-28 and Richmond 55-48 yesterday.
- The Marlborough Express