WEEK 1 of the Victorian Netball League (VNL) finals was certainly entertaining, as there was an upset in the major semi-final, with City West Falcons upstaging the minor premiers Geelong Cougars. The Cougars will now face Melbourne University Lightning next week, after the Lightning down North East Blaze.
Falcons stage almighty comeback in the Major Semi Final to cause huge upset
The City West Falcons have had one of the comebacks of the season to defeat the Geelong Cougars 70-65 and move through to the 2022 VNL Grand Final. After being comprehensively beaten for three quarters, they staged an almighty comeback in the final quarter to overcome the Cougars in overtime.
It was a goal for goal affair early as expected, but a rare and unique error from the Cougars inside their shooting ring gave the Falcons the opportunity to break centre pass and they took the opportunity. Although the Falcon lead did not last long as the Cougars patience was rewarded with being able to equal things back up again.
There were a few uncharacteristic errors from both sides early in the first quarter, which may have been a sign of the nerves of playing in such a big occasion. Both shooting ends were using very different strategies and they were both working very well.
Geelong’s shooters Zanna Woods and Julia Woolley were splitting the shooting duties evenly, while the Falcons’ shooting was all being done by Jane Cook, with Madelyn Gray doing a mountain of feeding work out the front.
Geelong had built itself a little bit of the lead in the back end of the term, but the introduction of Uneeq Palavi into the mix brought the Falcons back into the game. Palavi’s influence meant that what was a three-goal Cougar lead was back down to a mere single goal at the first break.
The Cougars got the quick break to open the second term, and suddenly had a four goal lead to their name. Defensive pressure was high from both sides, which caused plenty of fumbles from both sides, but the Cougars were still able to maintain their lead. Geelong kept building their lead as the quarter progressed, and by the final few minutes of the quarter the lead had extended out to double figures. The Falcons pegged a few back late, so the half time margin sat at nine in favour of the Cougars.
The Cougars were able to maintain their 10-goal lead for much of the third quarter, and it was looking increasingly difficult for the Falcons to be able to get back into the match. The Falcons managed to peg it back slightly in the final part of the term, but the margin was still eight at the final break and the Cougars were very much looking like they were on their way to that first grand final spot.
The Falcons began to slowly chip away at the Cougars’ lead at the start of the final term, and things were shaping up for an epic finish. Just silly little errors were hurting the Cougars and the Falcons made the most of the turnovers. The tension was rising as both the minutes and margin ticked down, and with a minute and a half left to go the margin was dead even. Both teams only scored one more goal each and wit the Cougars missing their final attempt with only a few seconds left, the match was tied and off to extra time.
The Falcons built a little lead towards the back end of the first half of extra time, but they could not afford to take the foot off the pedal yet. City West’s lead remained small into the back half of the second half of extra time, but crucially for the Falcons the lead was still theirs. City West ultimately shot the last three goals of the way to come away with the win and the week off.
Uni strike down Blaze to keep season alive
The Melbourne University Lightning have kept their season alive, downing the North East Blaze 54-50. They withstood a final quarter Blaze comeback to hold on in what was otherwise a pretty close encounter overall.
It was the Lightning who were first to get a lead, but the Blaze were able to real it in pretty quickly and take the lead for themselves. However, the Lightning were able to regain the lead late and took a three goal lead into the first break.
The Blaze got the better start to the second term, and through some great work from Ella Bayliss, Nyah Allen and Georgia Moody meant they got the margin back down to one. However the Lightning shooting pair of Mikaela Vaughan and Claudia Mawson were working hard to ensure their team kept their lead, which they did manage to do.
Things remained at that one to two goal margin for much of the term, but with about two minutes to go the Blaze were able to tie things up. The Lightning retook their lead late in the piece, and so took a three goal lead into the main break.
Things went goal for goal early in the third term, but as the quarter progressed the Lightning put the foot down and were able to streak away from the Blaze. Their lead got out to as much as seven goals, and not even swapping the normally defender Romayer Gourley into goal shooter was able to stop the momentum of the Lightning. Ultimately their lead sat at six goals at the final break, and they were looking good to progress into next week.
The Lightning were able to maintain their lead for the first third of the final quarter, but slowly but surely the Blaze chipped away at the lead, and eventually for the margin down to a single goal. Eventually the Lightning were able to steady and reinstate their lead. The Blaze had one last fight back in the last 90 seconds, but unfortunately for the Blaze they ran out of time and fell just short.