Southland dismayed after losing to North
Southland will play in the second division of the NPC netball competition again next season, after being blown off the court in the second half against North in Gore yesterday.
With their season on the line, Southland went into the halftime break with a deserved 26-17 lead, after dominating the opening 30 minutes of play.
The maroons had absolutely no answer to a rampant North side in the second half, however, with the North Shore-based side overpowering Southland to win 48-41. North outscored Southland by a whopping 31-15 margin in the second half, fighting their way back from an 11-goal third-quarter deficit.
Southland needed to win if they were any chance of challenging for a promotion-relegation game at the finals tournament in Tauranga early next month.
Southland captain Hayley Crofts said her side were bitterly disappointed to let North back into the game during the second half.
"It's really gutting. We had that lead and played so well in the first half," Crofts said.
"For some reason, we changed the way we were playing. We were playing so well together, then suddenly, we changed."
With standout North defender Jess Moulds off the court in the second quarter due to a cut lip, Southland began to up the tempo, after an evenly contested opening quarter.
Midcourters Hayley Saunders and Crofts had the better of their North opponents in the first half and were able to send some nice ball into Canterbury-based shooter Sarah Hayman, who finished with 31 goals out of 36 attempts for the game.
A 7-2 run by Southland to end the second quarter saw them take a nine-goal cushion and all the momentum into the main break.
North coach Yvonne Willering inserted Moulds back into the game at goal keep for the start of the second half. She also made another change in the defensive circle bringing Fa'amu Ross on at goal defence, with the youngster going on to play an instrumental role during the second half.
Midway through the third quarter, Southland appeared to be in control, leading by 11 goals, but they then started to become unsettled, with mistakes creeping into their play.
North scored seven unanswered goals to end the third quarter, which trimmed Southland's advantage back to a single goal.
The Northerners began to lift their through court defence and place much more pressure on the Southland attackers. After scoring only 17 goals in the first half, North also found it easier to fire the ball into their accurate shooting combination of Julie Kelman-Poto and Brigette Tapene during the second half.
With confidence flowing through the North side, Southland found it difficult to drag themselves back into the game.
North made a powerful start to the fourth quarter, and held a four-goal buffer with five minutes to play. A late flurry of goals saw them wrap up a seven-goal victory, which denied Southland a bonus point.
Moulds was rapt with the way her side lifted their performance in the second half.
"We really wanted to win the game. We just had to put into play what we practise. It was a completely different second half."
Moulds will likely be playing for a new trans-Tasman netball franchise next year after her Northern Mystics' team signed Australian defender Julie Corletto. Southern Steel are in desperate need of a tall defender and the former New Zealand under-21 captain would be a handy addition to their ranks.
Moulds was not giving much away after the game, but said she was speaking with a "couple of teams", and had not made a decision on her future yet.
"In the next couple of weeks, we'll see what happens."
Southland play their last round-robin game against Eastern at the finals tournament on October 3. They will then play a further two games in Tauranga to determine their finishing place in division two.
North 48 Southland 41. Quarter scores: (Southland first) 12-10, 26-17, 35-34, 41-48. Shooting stats North: Julie Kelman-Poto: 34/42 (81 per cent), Brigette Tapene: 14/17 (82 per cent). Southland: Sarah Hayman: 31/36 (86 per cent), Lucy Heenan: 10/19 (53 per cent).
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