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Auckland triumph with inaugural Under-18 crown

A storming third quarter has paved the way for Auckland 1 to claim a piece of netball history by winning the inaugural Celebration Box Netball NZ U18 Champs in Rotorua.

The 25-16 finals victory over Wellington A Black at the Rotorua Netball Centre on Thursday earned the Auckland team the right to become the first team to lift the Margaret Forsyth Cup.

Auckland Co captain Kylie McGahan said it was an honour to be able to hold the Cup named after the New Zealand netball great who passed away earlier this year.

“It’s so amazing. (Margaret) was a Silver Fern and that’s been my dream since I was a little kid so this is very special.”

But the Auckland team, which had beaten Waitakere 2 46-20 to progress to the final, had to come from behind against a determined Wellington team which led at the first two breaks.

“That’s the most challenged we’ve been throughout the whole season. It was a very intense game,” McGahan said. “I’m really proud of the girls. We’ve been undefeated the whole season so it’s been great to keep that going this week.”

Wellington, who had earlier edged passed Hamilton City A 26-24 to earn a place in the final, set the pace in the first quarter to lead 7-2 at the break and weathered an Auckland revival in the second spell to go into the halftime break with a slender 9-8 advantage.

Auckland coach Liz Page said her team knew Wellington would start strongly and it was a case of “trusting our processes and structures” to come from behind for the win.

“We knew Wellington were going to come out with a lot of intensity and they did,” she said. “But we knew that we’d get enough turnover ball defensively and it was more about making sure that we cherished that possession.”

Page said the ability to stick to their “basics” got Auckland back in the game in the third quarter, a spell they won 9-4 to set them up for the win. She also praised the defensive effort from the entire team during the final, led by Carys Stythe and Ana Manuopangai.

“I think the key for us across the whole tournament has been using the entire team and utilising every player that we have,” Page said. “We’ve been able to put out every player which has been an advantage for us and was a big part of the campaign and really important for our culture.

“One of our key messages this week has been about having a great time and that was something we discussed before we went out there for the final.

“I’m just so proud of how this team has come together. They were really mindful of the fact that even though they all had individual aspirations as players, some of them want to potentially go on and play NNL and ANZ (Premiership), I think for them it was more about how the team performed and we saw that in the final.”