Marlborough Midweek - - NETBALL -

If the Quins wanted to make an em­phatic state­ment of in­tent be­fore the play-offs, this was it.

Af­ter an even first quar­ter, which ended with Quins ahead by two, they cut loose in the sec­ond and third stan­zas, starv­ing a slug­gish Toko side of pos­ses­sion through sti­fling all-court de­fence. Goal de­fence Sarah Hig­gins led the way, ex­ert­ing pres­sure on Toko shoot­ers Jess Prosser and Gemma Hika, while fel­low de­fend­ers Liv Hod­son and Maighan Wat­son made sure there were no easy feeds into the cir­cle.

Ini­tially Toko had suc­cess with high balls into their shoot­ers, but their ri­vals soon shut down that scor­ing av­enue.

As the de­fen­sive pres­sure in­creased, Toko’s usu­ally smooth oper­a­tion be­gan to come apart. Through the mid­dle quar­ters, Har­lequins re­stricted their op­po­nents to just 28 shots at goal, while putting up 46 them­selves, an ad­van­tage they trans­lated into a 52-35 lead by three-quar­ter time.

Al­though Toko lim­ited the dam­age by win­ning the fi­nal pe­riod, and re­duc­ing the mar­gin to 10 mid­way through, they never came close enough to give Quins cause for con­cern.

Quins shoot­ers Paige Lovell and Lau­ren Mur­ray thrived on the sur­feit of pos­ses­sion that came their way, shoot­ing at 74 and 76 per­cent re­spec­tively. In mid­court, the ex­pe­ri­enced duo of Brid­get Gane and Jenna Gil­bert en­joyed the time and space they were given to find their tar­gets.

When Toko re­view the game they will be less than happy with their dis­ci­pline. A mul­ti­tude of turnovers caused by break­ing, step­ping, con­tact and over-zeal­ous de­fence hurt the Pic­ton crew and sti­fled their usual flow. Prosser (76 per­cent) and Hika (80 per­cent) were gen­er­ally ac­cu­rate, while de­fend­ers Holly Bon­ning­ton, Tris­tian Tay­lor, Alex Cam­bie and Hana Wil­son worked hard to turn the game around.

Al­though they have tough semi­fi­nals to get through first, these sides are favoured to meet in the fi­nal, and it is hard to en­vis­age such a de­ci­sive mar­gin of vic­tory next time.

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