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Tigers taste finals glory

Saturday 25 August 2012

Western Suburbs Tigers got off to a flying start and that was the story of the Taranaki premier two netball grand final, winning 50-47.

The Tigers were purring along nicely in the opening 10 minutes, racing to a 14-6 lead over New Plymouth’s Sacred Heart Girls’ College in the early game at the TSB Stadium last night.

The eight-goal start was always going to be a bridge too far for the school side even though it scored the next five goals to close to 14-11 at the end of the quarter. Suburbs maintained the pressure, taking the next two quarters by three goals to lead by nine going into the fourth.

It was there that the school side produced its best netball, threatening to storm back and claim an unlikely victory. The quarter went Sacred Heart’s way 15-9, but the spoils and a shot at promotion to premier one went to Suburbs.

Suburbs will now play Waitara High School in a promotion-relegation match on Thursday, September 1.

It was a strange match, because for three quarters the sides looked evenly matched. It was just the first quarter that cost the school side.

Whether they were stage struck or just plain nervous, they were outgunned. Their passing was slow and shooting poor, with Suburbs having plenty of time to organise their defence. But the way Sacred Heart finished gave them hope for next week’s lower North Island secondary schools championships in Wellington.

“Ecstatic. I’m so proud of the girls tonight,” Suburbs coach Karl Albert said. “The first 10 minutes were key. If we start slow, we end up chasing and put pressure on ourselves. But we settled well and … it put the pressure on them.”

Albert said the focus had been scoring off their own centre passes. “We did that and were able to break their centre pass. The girls definitely came to play tonight,” he said. “But even when we were eight goals up, I knew we couldn’t relax. That sort of buffer can easily disappear. Sacred Heart are a fit team and I knew they would come back and play right to the end.”

Albert singled out two of his players for special mention – shooter April Thompson and centre Stephanie Herbert.

“They both stepped up as leaders and controlled play for us.”

Sacred Heart coach Tracey Wales said playing in a final was a new experience for her team.

“They were a little bit nervous and it took some time for them to find their rhythm,” she said. “Suburbs played a great game … smart, mature netball … they were the better team on the night.”

Wales said she was happy with the way her team had finished.

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“If only we’d had another five minutes. It’s just so disappointing the way we started. It just wasn’t to be.”