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Defending champion South net big win

Netball South has made a statement in getting their Beko Netball League campaign back on track with a convincing 20-goal victory.

They beat second-placed Heller’s Netball Mainland 60-40 at More FM Arena in Dunedin on Sunday in their most complete performance of the season.

Captain Ashleigh Smith, who was named player of the match, said the “belief” from the side has never wavered despite heading into the game with just two wins under their belt.

“We finally had a bit of heart and stuck it out,” she said. “We haven’t actually played as a unit but today we did it.”

Mainland captain Sophia Fenwick was disappointed with their performance knowing “we can do better than that.”

“For us it was a bit of different combinations, we had people coming back from injury so I think the timing wasn’t quite there so we need to work on those.”

South was slow to get going, giving Mainland a three-goal lead, but once they found their rhythm a few minutes into the match, they never looked like losing.

Coach Georgie Salter has had limited use of Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel shooter Jennifer O’Connell this season but she featured strongly in the first half – that target and accuracy in the attacking circle made a key difference for the hosts.

In contrast, Mainland were without regular shooter Ellie Bird for the first 30 minutes after she had already played a large chunk of the ANZ Premiership match of the Silvermoon Tactix earlier in the day.

It took some time for the visitors to find their links up front and unforced errors were costly as they had no answer against a determined South side.

There was no such trouble for South who dominated the first quarter and the start of the third quarter to put the result beyond doubt.

From the tenacious defensive efforts of Taneisha Fifita and Ashleigh Smith in the circle to the shooting class from O’Connell and Aliyah Dunn at the other end of the court.

Through the middle, centre Sophie Erwood and Kate Heffernan showed a great understanding with their shooters while Dani Gray at wing defence got her hand to plenty of ball.

South enjoyed plenty of height throughout the court which they used to their advantage as they raced out to a 16-9 quarter time lead and 28-20 by the main break.

Mainland introduced their own tall timber in the second half with Bird putting on the goal shooter bib, but it made little difference as South continued to rattle their opponents up front.

A strong third quarter put South in total command and although Mainland headed the hosts for intercepts (10-8), it was the hosts who showed they were more hungry for the victory.

Meanwhile, in other Beko Netball League matches Netball Central beat the High Wire Trust Northern Comets 52-35 and the Northern Marvels scored a 49-47 win over Netball Waikato Bay of Plenty.