St Mary's beat Rata to take News Shield

St Mary's A reclaimed the News Shield on Saturday with a convincing 32-18 victory over Rata in the Invercargill Netball Centre final.

St Mary's were determined to get their hands back on the silverware after a surprise loss to Collegiate in last year's decider, and outplayed and outpassioned their Rata opponents.

It was a full team performance from the St Mary's side, with all seven players doing their job, and their swarming through-court defence, being one of the features of the game.

Goal keep Sara Bartley was a standout, pilfering several nice intercepts, and unsettling the young Rata shooters with her defensive pressure.

Much of the talk coming into the final, was which shooting end would stand up, and it was St Mary's experienced combination who handled the pressure best.

Memory McLeod was one of the best players on court, converting 17 of her 19 attempts (90 per cent), while skipper Mishani Areaiiti had a fine second half, to finish with 15 from 20 (75 per cent).

Centre Whitney Areaiiti was another to shine, getting through a power of work in the midcourt, and delivering some clean ball through to her attackers.

St Mary's title win continues their recent domination of Invercargill club netball. They have now won five championships in six seasons. Rata, whose last final win came in 2005, will have to wait, at least another year, to etch their name on the shield.

Mishani Areaiiti said her team were delighted to win back the News Shield and praised the commitment of her team-mates.

"It means a lot. The girls came out and worked really hard. I'm really proud of them. It's an awesome feeling."

"The defence played absolutely amazing."

St Mary's made an excellent start of the game, racing out to a 9-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. It was a nervous beginning from the Rata side, who threw away early ball and lacked movement on attack.

With classy performers like captain Hayley Crofts and Kendall McMinn in their ranks, Rata were always going to fight back. They strung together a sharp second quarter effort, to cut the deficit to 13-11 by halftime.

That was as good as it would get for Rata, with St Mary's going on a 9-2 surge to start the second half, which blew the margin out to nine goals.

St Mary's outscored Rata by a whopping 19-7 scoreline during the second half, as their confidence soared and the Rata heads dropped.

They would have been pleased with the way they were able to shut down the dangerous Rata midcourt, with Crofts and McMinn finding it tough to send the ball into the shooting end, due to St Mary's effective defence.

Rata shooters Katie Heywood and Morgan Hunter were never really able to build any rhythm in front of goal, and had 12 less attempts than their St Mary's counterparts.

Rata captain Hayley Crofts was gracious after the loss and said they were beaten by a better team on the day.

"We just fell away. St Mary's were out there to win it and we just didn't really fire," she said.

"We didn't play like we know we can. Full credit to St Mary's, they took it to us, and we had no answer for it."

Despite the loss, Crofts said it had been a successful season for Rata, and believed her young side would be better for the final experience. "We've had a good year. They've done really well. Everyone has grown. We've got some really young players out there. They've come a long way from when we first started."

First grade: Rata Stubbies 29, Makarewa 18 Senior reserve: SGHS 10A 42, Grasmere Players 27 Reserve: St Mary's Green 38, Hargest 10A 18 Second grade: SGHS Twisters 28, Eastern 26 Third grade: SGHS 9A 35, SGHS 10B 26 Fourth grade: Kelvin Hotel Brigadiers 30, Woodlands 28 Fifth grade: Hargest Senior Blue 15, Makarewa 12 FINAL WHISTLE: St Mary's A 32 Rata 18 Quarter scorers: 9-2, 13-11, 23-14, 32-18. Shooting stats: St Mary's: Memory McLeod: 17/19 (90 per cent) Mishani Areaiiti: 15/20 (75 per cent). Rata: Katie Heywood: 12/17 (71 per cent) Morgan Hunter: 6/10 (60 per cent).

The Southland Times