St Mary's men made it back-to-back wins in the Southland-wide netball league after a hotly contested grand final against United at Stadium Southland on Thursday night.
The match see-sawed, with St Mary's taking until the last minute of play to put the result beyond doubt, winning 43-40.
The men made a good start to the final with a 14-9 lead in the first quarter. United fought back immediately with a clinical second quarter, scoring 14 goals to St Mary's six.
That gave United a 23-20 lead at halftime, which was again turned around in the next section of play. St Mary's won the third quarter 13-8, taking a 33-31 lead into the last 15 minutes of play.
The final quarter was fiercely contested. United fought back and levelled the scores but two turnovers in the last three minutes enabled St Mary's to secure the win.
St Mary's applied "full team pressure" on defence, which was the key to their victory, stand-in coach and longtime manager, Angee Shand said.
That defensive pressure forced the usually "slick" United into making "unusual mistakes", she said.
St Mary's poor second-quarter performance was a result of static play and over-complicating their tactics.
Shand's halftime message was to play positively and "stop over-thinking" their game.
United coach Reinga Te Huia was pleased with her side's performance, despite not taking final honours. "For 58 minutes of the game, we were quite clinical, which was good," she said.
United were also edged on by St Mary's in regular season play but the team showed improvement in the final, Te Huia said.
"We had a much better performance than the last time we played [St. Mary's], but we're disappointed we didn't come away with the win."
United made errors late in the game that they hadn't in the first three quarters of play, which cost them victory, Te Huia said.
"The things that cost us were our own mistakes and [St Mary's] capitalised on them."
The first half was highly physical with United players tumbling to the floor at regular intervals. Refereeing calls could have gone United's way, but Te Huia was not blaming those decisions for the loss.
"I think it's really hard when you play the men because they are just that much faster and stronger and things that are usually called advantage against a woman you get away with," she said.
Netball Southland's community netball manager Rose De Goldi was pleased with the way the league ran this year.
The emergence of talent in Southland's umpiring ranks was particularly pleasing, she said.
Changes might be made next year when Netball New Zealand reviews its competition structures.
"Netball New Zealand are undergoing a review of their own competitions and events and that has a concertina effect on what we do at zone level," she said.
Jonny Turner is a SIT journalism student.
- The Southland Times