Boroondara Express will again face the City West Falcons in a semi-final rematch in next Saturday’s Grand Final, after outlasting the Wilson Storage Southern Saints 56-48.
The win came at a cost with consistent goal attack Sarah Main collapsing on her left knee in the third quarter.
While Boroondara would lose Main for the second half, it had no impact on their shooting; the Express missing just four goals for the match.
The Express leapt out of the blocks in the first quarter, piling on 17 goals from 17 attempts to open up a handy six-goal buffer that would prove to never be broken.
It was the nerveless efficiency of the second-placed Express that always kept a dogged Saints outfit at an arm’s length. The defending champions couldn’t replicate their dream run of the previous year.
Shooter Emma Ryde will take all the confidence of the world into next weekend, shooting 46 goals from just 48 attempts, while mid-courter Elizabeth Birch was outstanding around the court consistently feeding Ryde.
The Express and the Falcons have met three times this year, with the Falcons taking the points in all three (R9 by 24, R14 by 21, Major SF by 2) matches.
The Wilson Storage Southern Saints handcrafted one of the greatest comebacks in VNL history, storming home to win 48-46 over the Boroondara Express in over time.
The Saints were down and out trailing by as much as 10 early in the final quarter after the Express goaled first in the last quarter, looking to build on a nine-goal three quarter time lead.
The Express had earlier put distance on the Saints with a 10-5 third quarter after slowly building their advantage in a high-pressured, frantic display of netball.
With both teams failing to capitalise on numerous opportunities when in their scoring circle, the punishment would be severe for the Express who shot just five goals from nine attempts in the last quarter.
Led by goaling stalwart Chloe Curran, the Saints piled on 14 goals and had a chance to go ahead with 12 seconds to go before turning the ball over on a centre pass. A hurl at goal from long range from Express goaler Nicole Lindley found the bottom of the net, but was disallowed after leaving her hand just a second too late.
The first seven minute period of over time saw both teams manage just two goals each, as the Express and the Saints struggled to navigate the ball into their attacking third.
Two missed shots from the Express proved costly in the following stanza, as the Saints nailed their opportunities to record a famous win.
Curran (34 from 41) proved herself yet again to be a focal point in attack, while Kate Kelly-Oman (introduced in the second half) and hard-nosed defender Ash Hardy were catalysts in the Saints’ fightback.
The Saints will meet the City West Falcons next Saturday; both previous home-and-away encounters going the way of the minor premiers by 11 (Round 9) and three (Round 14).
19 & Under
Geelong Cougars sought redemption to set up a mouth-watering Grand Final classic and in the process ended the ACU Sovereigns dream run, with a hard-fought 47-40 win.
Accuracy in front of goal proved crucial, the Cougars putting up six less shots than their Ballarat opponents thanks to dynamic goaling duo Hannah van Gemst (26 from 29) and Mary Waldron (21 from 22).
By contrast, the Sovereigns shot at 72 per cent, their offense breaking down after a tight first quarter that saw the scores tied at 11 after 15 minutes of netball.
Driven by the desire to meet the City West Falcons next weekend, who pipped them for a Grand Final spot in last week’s major semi final, the Cougars made their charge in the second and third quarters.
Defender Brooke Allan stood tall with her rebounds and smart position, forcing normally calm Sovereigns shooters Sacha McDonald and Abbey Ryan into difficult areas.
Midcourter Laura Cayzer continued her good finals series form, and stood up as the Sovereigns pushed the margin to within five with three minutes to go.
It would be as close as the Ballarat side would get; their debut season in the VNL finishing impressively at the Preliminary Final stage.
The Cougars will meet the Falcons for the fourth time this season, the previous three encounters split with two wins for Geelong and the most recent victory going to the Falcons by seven goals.