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Flames topple Sting in final round robin match

Flames topple Sting in final round robin match

In the last twist to a dramatic final round of matches, the Ballantynes Canterbury Flames pulled off a stunning 51-48 upset over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Sting today to claim a spot in the National Bank Cup netball semifinals.

The reward for the triumphant Flames, which also marked their first win in 15 encounters against the Sting, sealed fourth place for the Christchurch-based franchise in a frantic final weekend where five teams were battling for semifinal spots.

The Flames result ended The Trusts Diamonds claims, the pair finishing on equal points but the southerners advancing thanks to their win over the Diamonds in round robin play.

The drama began yesterday when the Fujifilm Force turned in their best match of the season to date to topple the defending champions Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic supported by Sleepyhead 47-42 in a commanding display.

After the most even competition in the nine-year history of the national league, three teams shared top spot with the Sting, Magic and Force being ranked in that order for the semifinals on goal average with the Flames a further point behind in fourth.

Today’s result was fitting reward for the gritty Flames who failed to be intimidated by the star-studded Sting line-up.

None was more inspiring for the Flames than veteran centre Julie Seymour, whose defensive qualities and links on attack were outstanding. The Flames enjoyed a steady flow through midcourt and apart from the second quarter, when it looked as if the Sting may take the game away from them, were equal to the occasion.

Teenaged Flames goal attack Jade Topia played a leading hand both in shooting and on attack where she linked well with her shooting partner Shelley Norris. The latter’s positional play enabled a top scoring return of 20 goals from 21 attempts.

Going goal-for-goal down the home straight, the Sting had an unusually high turnover rate and for the first time this season, the former champions found the Flames defence a tough barrier and sharp shooter Tania Dalton was kept relatively quiet.

``To come down here with this team and to win is just amazing,’’ emotional Flames coach Margaret Foster said. ``Everyone was absolutely inspirational, it was just a great team effort.’’

Sting coach Robyn Broughton said her team had not picked up enough ball on defence and were unable to absorb the physical pressure.

In the first of the semifinal matches next weekend, the two top qualifiers – the Sting and Magic – square off in Invercargill on Friday while the Force and the Flames clash on the North Shore on Sunday.

The Force’s inclusion in the top four hinged on a late charge in their final match yesterday.

After an even first quarter when the scores were all tied up at 12-all, the Force held the upper hand throughout against the Magic.

``It was about time we put it together,’’ Force coach Yvonne Willering said. ``I thought it was a total team effort out there and we showed patience and control right to the end and it was well deserved.’’

Force defenders Lorna Suafoa and Leana de Bruin excelled themselves in shutting down the Magic’s shooters with Irene van Dyk, for the second successive week, being shut out of much of the play and unable to get her hands on the ball.

At the other end of the court the Force’s shooters of Australian import Megan Dehn and teenaged Samoa representative Catherine Latu enjoyed a better supply of ball and shot with poise and accuracy.

The Magic had difficulty threading their way through the Force’s midcourt zone where Temepara George and Kimberley Horton were particularly effective. Frustrated, the Magic threw too much ball away on attack and despite chipping away at times could not sustain any consistency for any length of time.

``We were beaten by a better team, a team who were hungrier and who forced us into errors,’’ Magic coach Noeline Taurua said.

In yesterday’s other match, the Genesis Energy Shakers sealed sixth spot in this year’s competition with a comprehensive 50-33 win over the Southern Victorian Otago Rebels.

It is the best result for the improving Shakers, under coach Wai Taumaunu, since 2002.


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