Hawks Netball has tightened its grip on top spot in the Victorian Netball League’s Championship division, downing second-placed DC North East Blaze by two goals in a Round 12 thriller.
With Blaze the only team to have beaten Hawks this season, way back in Round 3, there was extra feeling in the contest from the outset. But the Hawks were unstoppable early, netting 21 goals to 13 in the first quarter to establish a handy eight-goal lead.
The margin became 10 goals early in the second quarter, but Blaze showed why they were the 2017 premiers by slowly clawing their way back to trail 33-30 at the main break.
The third quarter belonged to Blaze as they dried up the supply to Hawks goalers Nat Billings and Kim Commane, conceding just 11 goals for the quarter while scoring 17 of their own to grab a 44-47 lead.
But the Hawks knuckled down in the final quarter, whittling away Blaze’s advantage and then matching them goal for goal, with neither team prepared to yield.
Both teams shot at a perfect 100% in the last 15 minutes, but with the Hawks’ defence end holding Blaze to just 12 attempts, and Lil O’Sullivan and Monique Tarrant giving Commane and Tayla Shannon 17 shots at the other, it was enough for the Hawks to prevail 61-59.
With six rounds to play, the Hawks remain two wins clear at the top of the Championship division, and will take on the bottom-placed Selkirk Sovereigns in Round 13.
The Division 1 team came up short against Blaze in the first game of the evening, despite holding the 2017 grand finalists to their lowest score of the season.
In a scrappy affair between the competition’s first and third-placed sides it was Blaze that had the better of the opening exchanges, establishing an early lead and carrying it through to be 14-10 in front at quarter-time.
The margin became seven goals in the second quarter as the Hawks struggled to make the most of their opportunities and Blaze capitalising at the other end with 14 goals from 15 attempts.
The Hawks dug in in the third quarter as 19/U midcourter Jasmine Ferguson made her Division 1 debut, but an ankle injury to wing attack Kate Fletcher saw the combinations shuffled again and further chances to close the gap go begging, with the score 30-38 at the final change.
A string of turnovers from goal keeper Clare Johnson and solid pressure from Juliet Fisher and Chloe Sinclair saw the Hawks make a run at Blaze early in the last quarter, but again conversion was an issue. Blaze were held to nine goals for the term but the Hawks managed only six of their own to go down 36-47.
The Hawks remain in top spot on the Division 1 ladder, with Geelong Cougars half a game behind but still with their Round 12 match to play on Friday night.
Next week will see the Hawks come up against the fourth-placed Selkirk Sovereigns.
A gallant effort from the Hawks’ 19/U team saw them give the second-placed Blaze an almighty scare in Round 12.
The Hawks hit the ground running in the first quarter, opening up an early lead and holding a 9-8 advantage in the closing minutes, but a 5-1 Blaze run saw them fall behind 10-14 at quarter-time.
Blaze further extended their lead in the second quarter, with accurate shooting keeping the Hawks in it but the half-time score 19-28 Blaze’s way.
The Hawks fired up defensively in the third quarter, restricting Blaze to only seven goals while Kaia Giles (20 from 23 for the match) and Hayley Matthews (14 from 17) added 10 to their team’s score to cut the deficit to six.
In the opening minutes of the final quarter the Hawks made another run but couldn’t make it stick, while Blaze proved patient, putting up a game-high 22 shots to the Hawks’ 12 to win the quarter 15-11 and secure a 50-40 victory.
The Hawks will now take on the Selkirk Sovereigns in a ninth versus eighth battle in Round 13, with the Hawks having enjoyed a nine-goal win over the Sovereigns in Round 5.