ANL RD 3: Tassie Magpies take top spot

Three teams sit tied at the top of the ladder after three rounds of the 2018 Australian Netball League, in what is proving to be one of tightest seasons in the competition’s history.

Here’s how a huge weekend of netball played out across Australia.

WESTERN STING v NNSW WARATAHS

– from Netball WA

Western Sting’s title defence took a serious hit in Round 3 of the Australian Netball League, with two losses against the NNSW Waratahs.

The visitors took the first game 44-37, before running out 49-43 victors on Sunday afternoon.

The reigning premiers now sit 3-3 after three rounds, with two season-defining clashes to come next weekend against the Queensland Fusion. The Sting sit two points outside the ANL top four, while Fusion sit a further two points back in sixth place.

The inclusion of West Coast Fever athletes Kaylia Stanton and Annika Lee-Jones wasn’t enough to get Sting over the line in Sunday’s clash, but both were crucial to momentum swings throughout the match.

The Waratahs started the game strongly, opening up a four-goal lead at quarter time, before extending their lead to six goals at the major break. Centre Lindal Rohde was a standout for the Sting in the opening half, coming up with a number of intercepts, while Brittany Turnbull linked well with goalers Emma Cosh and Stanton.

Head coach Andrea McCulloch turned to her bench to start the second half, injecting Tess Cransberg into wing attack and Alice Coakley into goal defence. The move appeared to pay dividends, with the home side trimming the margin to four goals in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Sting forced a number of turnovers late in the term to cut the margin to just two goals at the final break, but a sluggish start in the final term cost them dearly, as the Waratahs pushed out to a seven-goal lead.

The Sting wrestled momentum back momentarily, cutting the deficit to three goals, before the Waratahs took control to run out 49-43 victors.

TASMANIAN MAGPIES v TERRITORY STORM

The Tasmanian Magpies sit atop the ANL ladder after three rounds, having collected all the points from their two clashes against Territory Storm in Melbourne.

The wins marked the fourth and fifth on the trot for the Magpies, who have dropped only one game (a two-goal loss against the Western Sting in Round 1) in the competition thus far.

The Magpies were far too good in Saturday’s game, with goal shooter Jane Cook (46/48) and goal attack Cody Lange (20/25) running riot on the way to 20 first-quarter goals and 39 in the opening half. The Storm trailed 18-39 at half-time, and while they showed signs of life in the second half, the Magpies continued piling on pressure while getting 11 of their squad members out on court, rolling to a percentage-boosting 74-43 win.

Sunday’s game at Margaret Court Arena could not have been more different.

Both teams were strengthened by the inclusion of Magpies Netball and Sunshine Coast Lightning stars, with Matilda Garrett, Shae Brown and Alice Teague-Neeld joining Tasmania, while Jacqui Russell, Erene Mikaere and Cara Koenen got valuable court time with the Storm.

And the Storm emerged the better from the early exchanges, scoring 17 goals in the first quarter to lead by two, with the Magpies’ perfect 15/15 shooting ensuring they stayed in touch.

Tasmania hit back hard in the second term, netting 20 goals to wrestle the lead from the visitors and take a 35-29 scoreline into half-time.

With Cook (45/48) again dominant under the post and Brown spending some time in goal attack in the third quarter, the lead reached double digits by the final change. A 14-10 final quarter gave the Storm two winning quarters for the day, but the Magpies did enough in the game’s middle stages to win 61-55.

SOUTHERN FORCE v VICTORIAN FURY

The Southern Force came desperately close to claiming their first ANL win of 2018 on Saturday, pushing the equal league-leading Victorian Fury to within two goals.

The Force fought back not once, but twice throughout the game before falling 52-54, but showed considerable grit in refusing to lie down.

The Fury scorched out of the blocks, establishing a 17-10 quarter-time lead. But with goal shooter Rahni Samason (30/36) off the court in the second quarter the Fury momentarily lost their way, with the Force not only chewing up the seven-goal gap but hitting the front late in the quarter to take a two-goal lead of their own into half-time, 27-25.

Samason returned to the court in the third quarter and made her presence felt with 14 goals from 15 attempts for the term, while young defender Allie Smith also saw her first action for the weekend and helped keep Force goalers Nyah Allen and Asha Thurlow to just nine goals for the quarter, allowing the Fury to retake the lead, 41-36.

Again the Force refused to lie down, inserting Georgia Dent at wing attack and Sienna Allen at goal keeper for the final 15 minutes and almost coming up trumps, closing the gap to just two goals at the final whistle, with the Fury prevailing 54-52.

The Fury were always in control of the second match of the weekend on Sunday at Priceline Stadium, with Vixens Khao Watts, Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Sam Gooden helping the team to a handy 61-44 win. Smith again got the nod at goal defence and helped Dehaney hold the Force to 12 goals or less each quarter as the Fury slowly built their lead to five goals at quarter-time, 12 at the half, 14 at three-quarter time and 17 by game’s end.

CANBERRA GIANTS v QUEENSLAND FUSION

The Canberra GIANTS have moved back into the ANL top four after clean-sweeping their games against Queensland Fusion on Friday and Saturday.

The Giants did their damage in the first half of their Friday night game, establishing a 10-goal lead and pushing it to 16 at three-quarter time before the Fusion pegged a few back in the last quarter to go down 44-57.

The margin was greater but the contest was tighter on Saturday, with the Fusion sticking with the Giants throughout much of the first half and trailing by just two goals at quarter-time.

But with Giants goaler Georgia Marshall collecting 36 goals from 42 attempts, weight of numbers began to tell as the Giants piled on 18 goals in the second quarter and 15 goals to 11 in both the third and fourth quarters to complete a comprehensive 64-48 result.