HARLEQUINS 67 TOKOMARU 54
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.