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Central secure Beko Netball League three-peat

Central Manawa made Beko Netball League history by claiming a third straight crown on the back of a strong defensive display.

The defending champions beat Waikato-BOP 49-46 at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch on Sunday in a thrilling arm-wrestle between the league’s two top teams.

Only a handful of goals separated the teams through much of the match before Central stamped their mark on the final in the fourth quarter.

A delighted captain Renee Savai’inaea said her side were determined “not to leave anything in the tank” in the final.

“I think it was our heart in that last quarter that got us through,” the midcourter said.

“We just wanted to give it our all in that last quarter and we did that.”

She highlighted the strength on their bench as they were able to make changes mid-way through the third stanza which saw momentum in the game shift.

“We knew that Khiarna (Williams) was a strength in the circle for Waikato-BOP so we worked hard as a unit on defence to keep it away from her,” Savai’inaea said.

“I’m just so proud of my girls and the management team for all the hard work they’ve done throughout the season. It’s really special to win a third title.”

There was some consolation for Waikato-BOP with captain and midcourter Ali Wilshier named the 2019 Beko Netball League player of the year.

Waikato-BOP coach Rebecca Gabel surprised with a number of changes to her starting line as Georgie Edgecombe filled the centre role and Wilshier in at wing attack. Greer Sinclair joined Georgia Tong in defence with Savanagh Cassidy picking up the wing defence bib.

Central coach Pelesa Semu had a settled look to her line which included ANZ Premiership players Maddy Gordon at wing attack and Elle Temu at goal defence. Saviour Tui and Monalisa Groom spearheaded the shooting circle while captain Renee Savai’inaea took charge through the middle.

Both sides looked composed from the opening whistles but it was Waikato-BOP to make the first break having to work hard to score over the long reach of Central’s Temu and Api Taufa.

Central took an 11-10 lead at quarter time which prompted Waikato-BOP to make changes through the middle with Edgecombe and Sinclair swapping bibs and Wilshier picking up the centre bib. Braxton Te Riini joined the attacking unit, coming off the bench to the wing.

More changes were made with Asher Grapes replacing Eden Anderson as Central’s defenders started to tighten the screws.

Wilshier was a workhorse through the middle for her team and took a blow late in the second quarter to gain her side valuable ball, as Waikato-BOP grabbed the lead late in the spell to go into halftime with a 24-23 advantage.

Waikato-BOP edged out to a three-goal lead which saw Central turn to their bench in a defensive reshuffle.

Temu dropped back to goal keep with Lokotui joining her in the circle and Savai’inaea moving onto the wing. Gordon shifted to centre while Salote Taufa came off the bench into wing attack.

Temu made an immediate impact from the back as she shut down the options into Williams while also went hunting for the ball, while Gordon also made her presence felt at centre with a great tussle against Wilshier.

Central’s defensive efforts backed by the accuracy of Tui in the shooting circle saw the defending champions open a nine-goal lead, the biggest of the match, before Waikato-BOP rallied for one last challenge.

They reverted back to their original defensive line for the deciding quarter but it was at the other end of the court where they struggled to convert as Temu and Lokotui starved Williams of ball.

The gap closed to four goals but Central’s composure on attack gave them the edge at the final whistles.

Result:

Central Manawa 49 (Saviour Tui 36/38, Monalisa Groom 13/23) beat Waikato-BOP 46 (Khiarna Williams 33/37, Eden Anderson 8/15, Asher Grapes 5/8). Quarter scores: 11-10, 23-24, 36-34, 49-46.