A perfect shooting display from Te Amo Amaru-Tibble could not stop Wellington slipping into relegation territory in netball's NPC last night.
Amaru-Tibble nailed a remarkable 41 from 41 at Tauranga's TECT Arena but it was not enough to prevent a 59-53 defeat to Waikato in their final-round match.
Wellington then faced a nervous wait, requiring Bay of Plenty to upset Otago so they could sneak into the top four. But that contest was never in doubt as Otago cantered home 59-32 to claim fourth place, and a semifinal against top qualifiers Canterbury today.
That leaves Wellington facing BOP in a seeding match today, then both play promotion-relegation against Western or North, the top two sides from division two, tomorrow. If Wellington beat BOP, as they should after toppling them 53-37 in the regular season, then they will face an easier match against the loser of Western and North.
"That's put the pressure on. We don't really know a lot about them [division two sides] and they're hungry for promotion," coach Natasha Parsons said.
Wellington were beaten semifinalists the past two years, after earning promotion in 2009. They were heading for the playoffs again until Otago produced a boilover, toppling Canterbury 56-45 in the round-robin.
That left yesterday's match a must-win for Wellington, but after slipping behind 29-26 at halftime they never recovered.
"We were quite apprehensive on attack right through court. We didn't have the same flow and it halted things. All we really needed to do was get the ball to the shooters but it was quite hard work," Parsons said.
That was shown by the stats which had Waikato hoisting 70 attempts at goal to Wellington's 59.
Wellington, with Pulse players Victoria Smith, Daya Wiffen, Jamilah Gupwell and Amaru-Tibble, had enough quality on court to dispatch Waikato. Goal attack Gupwell shot 12 from 18 while Amaru-Tibble continued her hot form this season but was left gutted by the defeat, Parsons said.
"You can't take that away from her. To shoot 100 per cent was really good and usually that would be good enough [for a win]."
In the battle of the top two, Canterbury beat Auckland-Waitakere 54-53, leaving the latter facing Waikato in today's other semifinal.
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