Jacks subdue students
Experienced heads eclipsed youthful energy in two tight tussles, but only Jacks and Richmond remain undefeated following the second round of Nelson Netball's premier grade championship.
Strong support on the sidelines at Saxton Stadium also featured as fans found their voices in an effort to lift their teams.
There was sparse seating in the stands as the late game got under way on court 1.
Waimea College Senior A, buoyed by their spirited opening round had a dedicated bunch of scarf wavers present. Some of the Waimea College First XV also appeared to watch their contemporaries clash with Jacks OPD Richmond.
Jacks sprang out of the blocks in the first quarter. An almost telepathic level of understanding between goal shoot Ani-Marie Waitai and centre Jodi Hikuroa combined with a suffocating midcourt defence for Jacks to lead 20-13.
"They put a zone [defence] on us and I think we just panicked a bit and thought we would all go in and help instead of holding the space. In the end it created more of a mess," said Waimea coach Faye Eden.
But the college girls weren't subdued in the slightest and came out in the second quarter to wrestle back control. It was all grit and determination mixed with unabated talent that had the scores reading 34-33 to Jacks at the midpoint.
When the shooters in the Waimea circle found their confidence they were netting from the car park. For the second week running goal shoot Shaun Aindow hit the 40-goal mark and Kayla Cross was making it swish from deep.
In perhaps the individual match-up of the round Waimea centre Ella Marwick took the fight to 2011 season MVP, Hikuroa.
"It was a huge contest, Ella played very well. She goes for everything, and when you find that in a school kid it's fantastic," said Robyn Leonard, coach of Jacks OPD.
"That college team never let go, they came right back at us and got it back even. But it was a really, really good finish from us."
Experience told in the second half and although Waimea were never embarrassed Jacks' lead continued to climb and ended in a hard-fought 68-55 victory.
Waitai shot a round high of 50 goals at close to a 90 per cent success rate while Leanne Cook's move into wing defence complemented strong work from Phillippa Dean.
Defending champions Richmond Robbie's Bar and Bistro saw off a solid challenge from Stoke NBS in the opening match on the main court, with the latter picking up a bonus point from their 66-61 loss.
Stoke coach Priyani de Silva-Currie must have lit a fire under her team following last week's scare against Waimea because the girls in red came out hot in the first quarter.
"Our through court attack was awesome. I asked them to let the ball go and do it with confidence and they did that. Abbie Cook [goal attack] improved immensely from last week."
Bustling defensive work in the circle from Stoke's Emily Stalker and Vanessa Hislop disrupted the feed into Kathleen Thornalley and Nicki Rampton but fantastic offensive rebounds from Rampton eased the pressure and it was still a tight 33-32 in favour of Richmond at halftime.
Stoke brought on a few youngsters in the third quarter with sharp young wing attack Michaela Matenga moving to centre and Kelsey Whiting filling the wing spot, but that was all Richmond needed as they pounced on any loose ball to shoot out to a seven-goal lead in the third.
"At halftime I knew it would come down to the team who made the least errors and in our third quarter we made a few errors," said de Silva-Currie.
Richmond doesn't need a second invitation to take the upper hand. The midcourt found their rhythm through Lisa Book and Thornalley who showed some nice touches into Rampton as the game slipped from Stoke's grasp.
Richmond co-coach Amanda Springer said the message from the bench at halftime was to take control, play their own game and dictate terms.
"It was quite intense right through the whole court, lots of good defence on their side and we were just lucky enough to finish off our shots," said Springer.
On court 2 Prices Pharmacy picked up a 63-31 victory against Wanderers Taylors A in a match that was closer than the scores reflected. Prices were also playing for team member Dana Wilson and her family as the squad wore black armbands on court.
"One of our players, Dana Wilson, attended her niece's funeral in Tapawera and that was just a sign of respect and support for Dana and her family as they go through some hard times at the moment," said Prices assistant-coach Tom Alesana.
Wilson had an immediate impact on the game when she shifted to goal attack in the final quarter. The speed that Wilson brought to the circle and the extra verve lifted the team and the goal tally.
For Wanderers, reflection on the scoreboard won't help this young side. They competed well in most areas of the game and forced the more experienced Prices team to look across court a lot instead of into the circle.
"It was an improvement from last week. We aimed to work on our straight lines and our flat ball and I think at times we did that well," said coach Jared Lock.
Defensively Wanderers held their own and were lifted at both ends by the performance of centre Ashleigh McLean but a lack of depth in the shooting department was exposed by an ankle injury to Shevaun Collier.
- The Nelson Mail