Sapphires into Opens Grand Final

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The Manly Warringah Sapphires have booked their place in the 2017 Samsung Premier League Opens Grand Final after a 56-54 win over UTS St George Sparks at the Genea Netball Centre on Wednesday 6 September.

In what was a fine contest between two evenly match sides it was Sapphires who just won out, with the Sparks now having to play a Preliminary Final against ERNA Hawks next week to earn a place at the big dance.

The Hawks defeated 2016 champions the Sutherland Stingrays 55-42 in the Minor Semi – READ REPORT HERE.

The first quarter looked like it would be a blowout for St George as they raced out to an 11-4 lead, however, the Sapphires showed fantastic resolve to reel the scoreline into 12-10 five minutes from the first break.

In a game where the momentum was swinging early, the Sparks then showed good ability to recover as they got the scoreline back in their favour, 19-13 at quarter time, with Kristina Brice and Beryl Friday rewarding the efforts of their midcourt.

Good link work by Sparks Centre Claire O’Brien was allowing Brice and Friday maintain the Sparks’ advantage in the early stages of the second quarter but, try as they might, they couldn’t shake the Sapphires.

GS Georgia Marshall was a good target for their midcourt and between her and GA Lauren Cantwell the Manly Warringah side were within three halfway through the period. Bit by bit the low-scoring second quarter was becoming a very good one for the Sapphires, and while chances weren’t very forthcoming it was them who captialised.

When the second half started there was only one goal between the teams and the Sparks were really feeling the heat of their opponents. And midway through the third quarter they were still neck and neck with St George maintaining the slenderest of leads.

In what was quick becoming a proper Finals game of intense physicality both teams were impressive in their commitment and resolve to recover from minor slips which, in such a close contest, would cost them the lead.

At the last break it was advantage Sparks, but only by two, and the fourth quarter was fantastically poised to be a thriller.

And what a thriller it was. The Sparks looked to have swung the pendulum in their favour when they went four goals clear midway through the quarter but, as was the story of the game all the way through, back came the Sapphires.

With two between the teams and two to play she was all on before two quick goals allowed Marshall the chance to even the ledger.

All tied up with 60 seconds remaining, cool heads were required and it was Manly – through Marshall and Cantwell – who got home by two.

Quarter by quarter scores:
SAPPHIRES | Q1: 13 – Q2: 27 (14) – Q3: 41 (14) – Q4: 56 (15)
SPARKS | Q1: 19 – Q2: 28 (9) – Q3:  43 (15) – Q4:  54 (11)

Starting Teams
SAPPHIRES: GS Georgia Marshall, GA Lauren Cantwell, WA Georgia Clayden, C Nikki Deeganaars, WD Brooke Lawrence, GD Stephanie MacGougan, GK Hannah Creelman.

SPARKS:  GS Kristiana Brice, GA Beryl Friday, WA Claire O’Brien, C Kaitlyn Bryce, WD Amy Parmenter, GD Kara Styles, GK Olivia Rowntree.

Shooting Stats
SAPPHIRES: 56/69 @ 81%
G Marshall: 44/51 @ 86%
L Cantwell: 12/18 @ 67%

SPARKS: 54/62 @ 87%
K Brice: 33/39 @ 85%
B Friday: 21/23 @ 91%