Central secure Mixed Cup again
Central Men are the Marlborough netball Mixed Cup champions for the second consecutive year after they convincingly overcame an understrength Harlequins Radich Law side 59-34 at Marlborough Lines Stadium last night.
Not eligible to compete in the premier semifinals and final, Central proved far too slick for a Quins side missing no fewer than six of the squad that prevailed in thrilling fashion over Smog Stainless Systems in Sunday's grand final.
Shooters Anne Reed and Kimberley Gibson, utility Raramai Nicklin and defenders Rachael Agnew, Zoe Johnson and Tracey Moanaroa were all missing from the match. Three members of the young Quins Fairweathers premier team, Ellie O'Fagan, Cathy Kitto and Katie Cunningham, and Stacey Ingpen came in to fill the voids.
At full strength, Quins would have been in with a great chance of taking the mixed title away from Central. However, without so many of their key players they were always going to struggle and that was clear in the opening minutes of the game as the men immediately established their ascendancy.
There were ominous early signs for Quins as slick Central shooting combination of Luke Richardson and Nelson import Jared Lock wasted no time in finding their rhythm. And with Jayden Stark leading an energetic defence at the other end of the court, Central raced out to an 18-7 quartertime lead.
At that stage it looked as though Central were on track to hand the Marlborough champs a hiding. But Quins upped their defensive ante straight away in the second quarter and in an instant the match went from flowing to highly disjointed. A staggering five minutes went by until the first goal of the quarter was scored by Central and as the halftime whistle drew closer they became more and more frustrated.
Quins capitalised on that unease, too. Thanks to a busy defensive effort, some nice feeding around the circle from Bridget Gane and Tash Ford and nine of 10 shooting by Lauren Murray they won the quarter 10-8 to trail 26-17 at the major break.
The resistance was never going to last forever, though. Slowly, but surely, Central began to rediscover their rhythm and with several silky touches from Lock a feature they started to pull away once more. Better marking of goal shoot Murray from the Central defence was also key and by the end of the third the men had victory secure with the score at 41-27.
Despite having the silverware sewn up, Central continued to charge at the start of the final stanza and scored nine consecutive goals before Quins could add to their total. The final 10 minutes of the match got scrappy as both sides began to throw the ball around freely, but there was no doubt about the result as Central comfortably closed out the mixed cup for another season.
Several Central players shone, but goal attack Lock was particularly strong and impressed with both his sharp general play and accurate shooting. Elsewhere, centre Nick Rayner was prominent in attack and defence, wing attack Shiloh Walsh added some nice touches and Stark was typically energetic in defence.
For an outmatched Quins side, young shooter Murray had a strong first half, while Gane and Ford did their best to spark things in attack and goal defence Kitto picked off a number of intercepts throughout.
MIXED CUP FINAL
Central Men 59 (Luke Richardson 22/37, Jared Lock 37/43)
Quins RL 34 (Lauren Murray 26/37, Serena Hounslow 7/10, Tash Ford 1/7).
Quarter scores: 18-7, 26-17, 41-27.
The Marlborough Express