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Southland hang on to make final

By BRENDON EGAN - The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 03/10/2009
TORRID TUSSLE: Southland goal attack Natalie Avellino comes under pressure from Otago's Emma Moynihan, left, and Louise Thayer during last night's semifinal.
BARRY HARCOURT/Southland Times
TORRID TUSSLE: Southland goal attack Natalie Avellino comes under pressure from Otago's Emma Moynihan, left, and Louise Thayer during last night's semifinal.

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Southland recovered from a horror second quarter to pip Otago 46-45 in yesterday's national netball championship semifinal at Stadium Southland and advance to today's final against Auckland Waitakere.

Matches between the two provinces in the Southern Steel franchise area are always a fascinating spectacle and this one was no different with momentum changing sides constantly.

Southland were slow to start in Thursday's loss to Auckland Waitakere but they began well against Otago with Dana Bond ruthless on defence early on and Natalie Avellino producing several beautiful passes into goal shoot Julianna Naoupu. Southland shot to an early 9-4 lead that they built to 13-6 by quarter time.

Otago mixed up their lineup for the second quarter, with coach Nicola Jones altering her shooting circle completely by replacing Greir Campbell and Jodi Brown with Jo Morrison and Lizzie Sandom. The blue-and-golds functioned far more smoothly in the second quarter with their midcourt delivering sharp ball into the circle. Morrison and Sandom converted all 16 of their second-quarter attempts, while Otago also lifted on defence to limit Southland to just eight goals, and take a 22-21 lead into halftime.

Southland reacted to their poor second quarter by moving Natalie Avellino into wing attack and bringing prodigious talent Ashleigh Smith into the shooting circle.

Smith was brilliant in the second half for the maroons with the young goal shoot excelling in the tense atmosphere of semifinal netball. She banked 18 of her 21 attempts and would surely have impressed Steel scouts at the game.

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, who had taken the court at goal keep in the second quarter, also had a big second half alongside the impressive Dana Bond.

Southland won the match in the third quarter when they went on a late 11-4 run after they had trailed 28-23.

Both sides threw everything they had at each other in the final 15 minutes. Southland player-coach Natalie Avellino come off second best in a nasty collision late in the game but Southland held their nerve in the dying seconds to win an epic encounter.

Southland captain Hayley Crofts said her side would have to play much better to beat Auckland Waitakere in today's final.

"Their attacking end is very polished. We have to play our own game out there and do what we're good at and not get into playing their game."We had a really good start (against Otago), but once again we had those lapses, which you can't afford to have."

Southland B will battle it out for third and fourth in the second grade against Waikato today after they lost their last crossover match against Wellington 68-43 yesterday.

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Today's first grade final between Southland and Auckland Waitakere begins at 4.30pm.

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