The Golden Fireballs saved their best for last at the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League. Having lost all their matches during the league stages of the tournament, they finally found their mojo on the last day, to beat the Kingdom Stars 40-38 in the promotion/relegation match on Sunday afternoon. It was a thrilling match, as the two teams battled for supremacy.
The defenders on both sides played a crucial role. At one stage, the ball raced from circle to circle, with the shooters unable to withstand the pressure, and the defenders turning the ball. At the end of the first quarter, there was only one goal between the teams.
The Fireballs moved ahead in the second quarter, and had a 23-16 lead at half-time. Both coaches made several changes, with Fireballs coach Martha Mosoahle-Samm resting centre Tumi Mantjiu and bringing on Thuli Qegu, while Stars coach Marchelle Maroun moved Precious Mthembu to centre, from wing defence. The Stars came back hard in the third quarter, outscoring the Fireballs by 12 goals to five, and at the end of the quarter, the teams were level on 28-all.
For much of the last quarter, goals went with centre pass, with first one and then the other taking the lead. But with less than two minutes to go, the Stars made an error in the circle, and the Fireballs capitalised, scoring two goals in quick succession. Although the Stars scored just before the final whistle, it was too little too late, and the Fireballs were able to celebrate their victory, which means they stay in the first division next year.
Mosoahle-Samm says: ‘The difference was that the Fireballs kept their heads right to the end, and for the first time, they played as a team. They knew what was at stake, and they really wanted the victory. Congratulations to the Kingdom Stars, who played a really great game. And I promise the Fireballs will not be playing the relegation game next year.’ Maroun said her team lost because they made some silly errors in the final quarter: ‘They were watching the scoreboard, instead of focusing on the netball. I think it was big match temperament – we’ll have to go back and work on that for next year. They were trying too hard, and they were holding on to the ball instead of getting it into the circle. But I’m very happy for the character they showed today. We will learn from this, and we will be a better team next year.’
Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA