Bombers, Sharks turn it on, finals-style

Riddell’s Mikaela Vaughan out-reaches Rupertswood’s Tess Abbott. Picture Shawn Smits

Finals came three weeks early in the Riddell District Netball League with ladder leaders Riddell and Rupertswood delivering a thriller on Saturday.

The two sides have clearly been the best teams all year, but on Saturday it was the Bombers who came out on top, 54-51.

No more than five goals separated the teams all game as both forced turnovers and challenged accuracy under the ring.

Scores were level at quarter-time before the Bombers settled in the second quarter to lead 30-25 at the main break.

The Sharks responded to level the scores with 40 seconds remaining in the third term. But the Bombers got the last two goals of the quarter to lead by two goals going into the final break.

In the last quarter, the teams went goal for goal, both shooting at a high percentage.

The Bombers nailed the clincher in the dying seconds.

Both sides said the game was exactly the sort of thing they were expecting come finals time.

Bombers captain-coach Lauren Close said it was a fantastic game.

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“We got pushed and they kept coming and got in front, then we pushed again,” Close said. “It was going down to the final siren.”

She said it was her players’ composure that got them over the line.

“We got a bit rattled in the first and second quarters.

“We got back to what we knew … we were up and about and around each other, which we haven’t had the last couple of games.”

In a surprising move, star shooter Mikaela Vaughan played goal attack.

“They would have studied our game and expected her back as goal shooter,” Close said.

“I have three shooters who can go through there at the moment.”

Hearts were in mouths in the third quarter when Close, who is returning from a knee injury, went down hurt.

“I copped it in the ribs,” she said. “The knee is great, but everything else is starting to hurt after games.”

Sharks netball manager John Lawson said it was a true test of where the team was at.

“This time we had our full team on the court,” he said. “We know where we are in the lead-up to finals.

“The shooters shot at more than 75 per cent, which is what we need to do. We know we have to improve and in what areas.”

He said there had been no disruption through Katie Clarke stepping in to the coaching role while coach Di McCormack is away.

“Katie is a great coach in her own right and brings a different dimension to the side,” he said.