Netball Central held their nerve against Netball Mainland to remain the only unbeaten team after a weekend of Beko Netball League thrillers.
They shoot to the top of the points table with a 51-48 victory in Wellington on Sunday while Netball South and the High Wire Trust Northern Comets were other narrow victors in Round 3.
Central captain Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was pleased to take the three-goal win but believed there was plenty to work on before their next outing.
“I think we made it really really hard for ourselves,” she said. “I think we just needed to settle it when we got the ball back… we needed to keep our composure.”
Mainland captain Sophia Fenwick was also happy with her side’s performance despite the loss, as her charges fought back from a 10-goal deficit to push hard in the deciding quarter.
“It was a lot of fight back from the girls and I’m really proud of that,” she said.
The visitors found themselves playing catch-up Netball after a sluggish second quarter which they lost by seven goals.
“I think we just let it slip and put the pressure on ourselves a bit much, forcing the ball in to the shooter,” Fenwick said. “We’ll learn from that and take it into our next game.”
Both teams started confidently and despite Mainland making the early break it was the hosts which went into the second quarter with a one-goal lead.
Central’s speed in transition from defence to attack left Mainland scrambling at times as the hosts opened up a four-goal advantage.
Goal defence Karin Burger was a menace on defence with a strong lean, plenty of pick-ups and bringing the ball through court well and was named player of the match.
At the other end of the court, the Central shooters were hard to shut down and no matter the combination coach Natalie Milicich plumped for, the hosts were accurate to give their side a 29-21 half-time lead.
Mainland went to the bench after the main break with Lily Fletcher picking up the goal defence bib but the visitors struggled to stem the easy flow of ball into the circle.
Goal attack Cait Dowden kept her cool against a relentless Central defence and was unafraid to go for the long shot while Mainland goal keeper Kelera Nawai did her best to disrupt Central’s flow on attack, picking up nine deflections and three intercepts.
The tables turned mid-way through the third quarter as Mainland slashed a 10-goal difference to five goals, but they went into the final 15 minutes of play still trailing 34-41.
Their desire never waned however and the gap was just one goal with five minutes on the clock. But an over-ambitious pass to Ellie Bird was plucked by Central which turned the game the way of the hosts.
Meanwhile, two thrillers unfolded in the other league matches with South overcoming a slow start to beat Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty (WBOP) 53-51 in Gore while the Comets turned around a 13-goal fourth-quarter deficit for a 50-49 win over Northern Marvels.