Rata breaks 13-year drought to win Southland title

Rata has won the Southland wide league for the first time in 13 years after beating Invercargill St Mary's 45-31 in the final at Stadium Southland on Thursday night.

Rata was the top qualifier and produced its best performance of the season in the final.

It was a proud coach Debbie Munro after the match.

"What a game. Talk about pulling it together when it counts," she said.

Rata overwhelmed St Mary's from the opening whistle and built a formidable 10-1 lead. Southern Steel defender Kendall McMinn was taking intercepts all over the court and had strong support from Georgia Dowling at goal keep and Georgia Holt at wing defence.

St Mary's tried to regroup at quarter time when trailing 16-7, but Rata's smothering defence was impenetrable and its lead was extended.

Munro said its defence worked perfectly.

"The team's job was to get straight back on to defence if there was a turnover. It was a whole team effort from the back defence right through to the shooters."

Kendall and Hayley Crofts led the team extremely well. Centre Crofts and wing attack Amy McKenzie worked tirelessly to get on to the circle edge and they fed the shooters some fantastic ball. Grace Earland and Julie Crawford finished off with the goals.

St Mary's captain Sarah Hamilton said her team was flat.

"I thought Rata had a great game and we just didn't turn up. We earned numerous turnovers ourselves but couldn't capitalise."

In the playoff for third and fourth, the defending champion, Gore Ex-High, came from behind to beat Mossburn 35-34.

Mossburn led by four at half time but Ex-High earned some beautiful interceptions and converted those extra opportunities to lock the scores at 26-26 at three-quarter time.

With eight seconds remaining, Ex-High captain Krishanee Tamou pulled in an intercept and got the ball down to Emma Millard, who from wide out in the circle put up a high shot which swished cleanly down through the goal net to take the win.

Ex-High coach Colleen Bond said it was a great game.

"Both teams played hard and displayed some outstanding netball."

Mossburn's Abby Erwood and Bridget Dickson were formidable in the defensive circle, while captain Sophie Erwood led her team well and provided a strong link at centre. Youngster Millie Walker shot well against the imposing presence of Gore's Ashleigh Smith and Tamou.

In the play-off for fifth and sixth, Winton beat Central Southland College 60-30. Winton built an early lead and gradually increased it each quarter.

The school side was patient with the ball in the first half, resetting often, but Winton defender Sonia Roberts still managed to pull in multiple intercepts, as College lost patience in the second half. Roberts had a field day.

It was a good team effort from Winton, which made very few errors. Centre Kirsty Thwaites had a great game and the shooting from Britt Davis and Heidi Middleton was accurate again.

Gore St Mary's beat Southland Girls' High School 44-35 in the wooden spoon match.

- By John Langford

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