Northern Marvels book place in Grand Final
On the back of a stand-out shooting performance from Saviour Tui, the Northern Marvels have clinched a spot in the National Netball League Grand Final.
The Marvels led from start to finish in their Round 10 match against Central Manawa at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Sunday, winning 50-45 to assure themselves a top two finish with one round still to play.
The Marvels will meet their across-town rivals the Northern Comets in the season decider at 2pm on Sunday July 4 at The Trusts Arena in Auckland.
In a game between the number two and three-ranked teams, it was an opportunity for the third-placed Manawa to make a move on the ladder, but the defending champions struggled to shut down Player of the Match, Saviour Tui, or penetrate the tough Marvels defence.
Marvels midcourter Holly Mather said their strong start, defensive work and patience with the ball on attack paved the way to the key win.
“We really just wanted to put in the hard work out there today and I think we did that,” she said.
“It was amazing work from the defence and they really did well.”
The Marvels attack was slick, working the ball into Tui and Braxton Te Riini who both impressed with their radar and Mather said their focus up front had paid off.
“We’ve been practising a lot of patience, reset the ball, patience into the circle has been a big work on and I thought we did really well with that.”
Both teams were able to call on ANZ Premiership experience with Mystics shooter Tui a stand-out where she was well fed by midcourter Claire O’Brien while Dani Gray pulled on the wing defence bib – the latter two both having recently been called on by the Mystics as injury cover.
Manawa also called on Te Wānanga o Raukawa defender Parris Mason and midcourter Paris Lokotui for limited court time.
Tui missed just the one of her 39 attempts at goal and proved a key target for the Marvels with the superior shooting accuracy the difference between the two teams.
But it was the defenders who helped the Marvels take the early initiative with defender Carys Stythe grabbing two intercepts and two deflections in the opening quarter to help her team to a 13-12 lead at the break.
Manawa was made to work hard to get the ball into the shooting circle with no easy passage through the blue defensive wall of Stythe and Tauhi Lopeti.
The Marvels got the early jump in the second stanza as unforced errors started to prove costly for the visitors, the score blowing out to a 20-15 advantage after five minutes of play.
Te Riini made the most of her opportunities, having been injected leading into the second quarter, as the Marvels threatened to put the game beyond reach.
But the tenacious Manawa defence, led by Mason and Abby Erwood, did their best to keep their team within striking distance – the visitors never in control but remaining in the fight for the full 60 minutes.
Marvels midcourters O’Brien and Mather showed a strong drive to the circle edge as they dictated play up front to help their side to a 30-24 halftime lead.
Manawa went to their bench in the third stanza with Grace McLean making way Torren Isaako at goal shoot, but they struggled to find an answer on attack as both Stythe and Lopeti caused plenty of problems through their efforts on defence.
An eight goal lead at the three quarter mark, 40-32, looked enough to secure maximum points for the Marvels but they were forced withstand a late rally from Manawa who found some confidence on attack late in the match.