SOUTHERN Saints are the 2014 Victorian Netball League Championship division premiers after upsetting the undefeated defending champions City West Falcons in the grand final.
Falcons, who had won all 19 of their games en route to another season decider, fell at the final hurdle and were simply outclassed by a disciplined and determined Saints outfit that held them to their lowest score of the season.
Saints’ 48-42 win capped a remarkable second half of the season in which they won their last nine games and delivered the club its first ever Championship title.
The unlikely result came after Saints weathered an early Falcons onslaught before running away with the match in the second half.
Both teams succumbed to nerves in an opening quarter full of turnovers, with City West steadying first and taking an 8-5 lead. But Saints shook off their sluggish start and started to find easy passage to goal shooter Elizabeth Nicol (29 goals from 32 attempts), hitting the front late in the quarter and leading 13-12 at quarter-time.
Falcons again started with a flurry of goals in the second quarter, scoring the first three before the teams settled into a goal-for-goal arm wrestle that was only broken when Saints got on top late, scoring the last four goals of the half to lead 25-21.
Saints continued pressing after the half-time break, pushing their advantage to seven goals in the opening minutes of the third quarter, while Falcons struggled to find their usual rhythm in attack, having switched goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld (15 from 18) for Julia Woolley (1 from 1). When goal shooter Kathleen Knott (26 from 30) floated along ball to Woolley that spilled over the baseline and Woolley was called for a controversial replayed ball moments later, Saints’ lead had exploded to 12, with a late Falcons goal putting the score at 40-29.
The night belonged to Saints in a tense but controlled final quarter. Led by match MVP, centre Leah Percy, they continued to play with patience and precision and refused to give Falcons’ usually dominant defensive line enough opportunities to impact the game.
Teague-Neald attempted to lift her team with three long bombs that all found the mark and allowed Falcons to get within eight, but Saints were able to respond each time they were challenged, and had the luxury of putting their bench players on the court in the final minutes.
The loss capped a dismal night for Falcons, who had reached the grand final in all three VNL divisions but were unable to win one.
SOUTHERN Saints’ Division 1 VNL team proved they are the queens of pressure netball as they beat City West Falcons by three goals in a gripping grand final.
Saints had won three of their four matches that were decided by four goals or less throughout the season – drawing the other one against Falcons in Round 7 – and they again produced the goods on the biggest stage of all to win the Division 1 title 42-39.
Falcons, who had lost only once throughout the season, finished on top of the ladder and beat Saints by nine goals in the semi-final a fortnight ago. And they had the better of an up and down first quarter and took an 11-10 lead into the first break.
Saints got rolling in the second quarter, squaring up with Falcons before goal shooter Chloe Curran (27 goals from 34 attempts) began piling on goals, and when a Falcons centre pass failed to find a target and went out of court, she scored again to give her team a 23-16 lead.
A late Falcons rally reduced the margin to four goals at half-time, and they came hard again at the start of the third quarter to cut the deficit to one. Saints finished the quarter the stronger of the two teams, restoring a five-goal advantage and putting themselves in a winning position.
Both teams gave away opportunities in the final quarter as nerves began to play a part, with Falcons finally breaking the stalemate to get within four goals, then slashing the margin to one and trailing 39-38 with four and a half minutes left.
But that was the end of Falcons’ challenge. They managed just one more goal through shooter Darcy Saunders (22 from 26), while Saints treasured possession and were able to add three more goals, allowing them to chew up the clock for the last 90 seconds before the celebrations began.
Saints centre Tarryn Munro was a deserving grand final MVP.
19 AND UNDER
CITY West Falcons’ reign over the Victorian Netball League’s 19 and Under division is over, after Monash University Storm became the first team in six seasons to beat them in the grand final.
Falcons had won every 19 and Under title since the competition began in 2009 and were poised to do it again after winning through to the final game of the year in a two-goal victory against Geelong Cougars last week.
But Storm, who were minor premiers and deserving favourites heading into the game after beating Falcons by four goals in the semis, had other ideas and showed composure beyond their years to hang on for an extraordinary 41-39 win.
Falcons had the better of the opening exchanges and led 8-5 halfway through the first quarter, but Monash were able to level the scores at 9-9 and then move into the lead. Storm goal shooter Natalie Billings (38 goals from 42 attempts) caught a long bomb with four seconds remaining and netted it to put her team up 12-10.
It took two minutes before either team added to their score in the second quarter, with Falcons finally breaking through and shooting two in a row to tie the match. The teams traded goals for most of the quarter, however this time it was Falcons’ turn to score a confidence-boosting goal on the final whistle and square the game at 22-22.
Monash again took control in the third quarter, with defensive pair Caitlin Watson and Matilda Garrett putting theclamps on to restrict Falcons to just seven goals and allow their team to again lead by two.
Neither team could make their turnovers count in the first five minutes of the final quarter, with the margin hovering around two goals until Garrett pulled off a perfectly timed jump and deflection inside the centre third, then chased the ball down to allow Monash to convert the turnover with seven minutes to go.
Both sides alternated goals and errors in a tension-filled final three minutes, until a crucial passing error into the Storm goal circle gave Falcons their chance to make one last stand, and they scored two on the trot to get within a goal with just 30 seconds remaining.
Storm took possession of the centre pass and worked to ensure they always had a safe passing option as they ran down the clock, before Billings iced the game with one last goal with four seconds left.
Storm centre Monique Tarrant was awarded the grand final MVP prize.