NSW go down in thrilling Semi Final clash

The Netball NSW (NNSW) Waratahs will play-off for third place after being defeated by the undefeated Minor Premiers Victorian Fury, 53-51, in a thrilling start to the 2014 Australian Netball League (ANL) Finals Series.

A week after playing out a double Extra-Time match, the game once again looked to go past 60 minutes with scores all level in the final minutes.  However the defending Champions, who extend their winning streak to 22 consecutive matches, held their resolve to claim honours.

Although disappointed not to be featuring in tomorrow’s title decider, Head Coach Anita Keelan was quick to praise her NNSW Waratahs charges.

“I’m proud that we’re here contesting Finals, and it was a gallant effort tonight from the team with only 11 players here this weekend. Obviously I’m disappointed we got so close, but that’s sport,” Keelan said.

“The way we were able to fight back, not just once or twice but on a few occasions, showed how much guts this team has.  Of course we would have loved to have been playing for the 2014 Champions title, but now we will just concentrate and do our best in the play-off against Queensland or Western Australia.”

It was another classic NSW v VIC rivalry to open the Finals Series, and both sides didn’t disappoint with an impressive opening 15 minutes.  While the home side settled first to open out to a three goal lead, the NNSW Waratahs weren’t to be discouraged, and with some tight defensive pressure were able to stay in touch.

Thrust into the GA bib for the first time this season, 19-year-old Kaitlyn Bryce didn’t miss a beat – using her speed to break through the shooting circle, whilst opening up her shooting partner Kristina Brice.

With ‘Little’ Bryce finding the post in the final minute, NSW hit the front for the first time.  However their lead would be short-lived as the Minor Premiers put up a goal in the dying seconds to tie the scores at the first break.

It was a loud start to the second quarter as both benches – and crowd – vocal in their support and instructions.  Once again it was the Fury to push first, turning over possession early to get out to a handy lead.

But just as they did in the opening quarter, the NNSW Waratahs regathered.  With their defensive end working overtime, including some great pressure from the NSW attacking end, the visitors made a push and pulled back the deficit from as many as six goals back to three.

A late timeout to the Minor Premiers provided Keelan an opportunity to make her first changes, bringing on Jessica Calderara to GD whilst moving Kristiana Manu’a to GK for the final four minutes until the big break.

But the Minor Premiers proved why they’re on a winning streak spanning two seasons, finishing the first half strongly to post a six goal lead at half-time, 29-23.

The NNSW Waratahs made further changes to their side for the second half, bringing on former Australian underage representative Amy Sommerville to GA, moving Bryce to WA and 2014 NSW Swift Brooke Miller to C.

The momentum remained just like the Fury line-up – unchanged – as the Victorians continued to put up an impressive defensive zone to limit the free movement in NSW’s attacking end.  With Melbourne Vixen Jo Weston leading the charge, the Fury continued to mount pressure on the scoreboard.

However an injury timeout to C Caitlyn Strachan disrupted the Minor Premiers’ momentum, with Strachan replaced by Maggie Lind for the remainder of the quarter.  The NNSW Waratahs pounced with some terrific defensive play from GK Manu’a and 2014 NSW Swift Maddie Hay; their shooters didn’t let them down, finding the post to close the gap on the scoreboard.

A goal in the final seconds to Vixens’ new recruit Alice Teague-Neeld saw the Fury take a three goal buffer, 40-37, into the final break, setting up an exciting final chapter to the must-win Semi Final.

The defence from both sides was a stand-out for the final quarter, both NSW and VIC looking to feature in tomorrow’s Grand Final.  After a second injury timeout to Strachan, the Fury made three further changes including bringing on their captain Jo Curran to WD, moving Eagland to C and Browne back out to WA.

Seizing on the disruption to their opposition, the NNSW Waratahs took the opportunity with both hands, Brice finding the post to even the scoreboard with under eight minutes to play.  It was goal for goal as the intensity lifted with every minute of the clock ticking down.

With time running out the pressure rose, and the Victorians seized the opportunity to pull out to a two goal lead in the dying seconds to finish victors and book their spot in the Grand Final to defend their 2013 title.

The NNSW Waratahs will now play-off for third place against the loser of tonight’s other Semi Final between second-placed Western Sting and third-placed Queensland Fusion at 7pm AEST.

Keep up to date with all the action on the road with Netball NSW’s social media channels; www.facebook.com/OfficialNetballNSW, Twitter and Instagram @netballnsw #ANL2014 #GoNSW

2014 Australian Netball League – Finals Series Fixture
Waverley Netball Centre, Melbourne VIC
Sat 23 August VIC Fury 53 d NNSW Waratahs 51
Western Sting v QLD Fusion @ 7pm*
Sun 24 August Preliminary Final (3rd Place Play-off): NNSW Waratahs v Loser Semi Final 2 @ 10am
Grand Final: VIC Fury v Winner Semi Final 2 @ 12pm

*all times AEST

Click here to view the full 2014 ANL Fixture.
Click here to view the 2014 ANL Ladder.

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores
NNSW WARATAHS│ Q1: 12 – Q2: 23 (11) – Q3: 37 (14) – Q4: 51 (14)
VIC FURY│ Q1: 12 – Q2: 29 (17) – Q3: 40 (11) – Q4: 53 (13)

Shooting Statistics
NNSW WARATAHS: 51/61 @ 84%
Kristina Brice: 38/41 @ 93%
Kaitlyn Bryce: 9/15 @ 60%
Amy Sommerville: 4/5 @ 80%

VIC FURY: 53/64 @ 83%
Stephanie Puopolo: 21/28 @ 75%
Alice Teague-Neeld: 32/36 @ 89%

Starting Line-ups
NNSW WARATAHS│ GS Kristina Brice, GA Kaitlyn Bryce, WA Brooke Miller, C Emily Keenan (c), WD Maddie Hay, GD Kristiana Manu’a, GK Nicole Styles

VIC FURY│ GS Stephanie Puopolo, GA Alice Teague-Neeld, WA Kelsey Browne, C Caitlyn Strachan, WD Shannon Eagland, GD Amy Steel, GK Jo Weston

Positional Changes
NNSW WARATAHS│ Q2 Timeout – GD Jessica Calderara, GK Manu’a; Q3 – GA Amy Sommerville, WA Bryce, C Miller.

VIC FURY│ Q3 Timeout – C Maggie Lind; Q4 – WA Strachan, C Browne; Q4 Timeout – WA Browne, C Eagland, WD Joh Curran (c).