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Teams stand up in post pool play

Four teams remain unbeaten after two days of age-group netball but the screws will be tightened tomorrow with the Netball NZ U19 crown in their sights.

Auckland, North Harbour, Wellington and Manawatu kept their sheets clean on day two of the National Champs at ASB Baypark Arena in Tauranga on Tuesday.

But the race to top their respective pools, and earn a place in Thursday’s final, heats up with Auckland and North Harbour set to clash in the afternoon along with a key match between Manawatu and Wellington.

The winners of these games look likely to progress through to Thursday’s final with Auckland and Wellington the early favourites to contest the title decider.

An already defensively strong Auckland side was boosted further with the inclusion of Northern Marvels defender Antonia Hei-Hei who was added to the squad as a late replacement for Theresa Ngata.

The Emma Haigh-coached team had little trouble progressing through to the top eight after beating Eastern Waikato 46-29 but were given a sterner work-out against Dunedin on Tuesday night.

Dunedin, which welcomed Beko Netball League player Georgia Heffernan into the fold, had a comfortable 56-18 win earlier in the day over Harbourside, but could not overcome the might of Auckland eventually going down 25-40.

They now face another tough match on Wednesday morning against a North Harbour side which has impressed over the opening two days.

North Harbour has been rarely troubled on the scoreboard having netted comfortable wins over Hutt Valley (50-17) and then Christchurch (43-27) in post pool play.

Wellington, who are coached by former Samoan international Frances Solia, are tipped as strong contenders for the final after trouncing Nelson 63-13 and easing past Waitakere 36-21 on Tuesday afternoon.

They face a big day in post pool play with a match-up against last year’s champions Hamilton City before taking on Manawatu.

Hamilton City earned their place in the top eight with a convincing 45-24 win over Invercargill, in what was a must-win match for them, and came close to rounding out a tough day by pushing Manawatu 26-33 in the late match.

The cut-throat nature of Wednesday’s post pool play will test the depth of the benches of those in the top eight as they strive for top play-off positions.

Play starts at 9am on Wednesday with the play-off positions to be confirmed after the last game of the day at 5.45pm.