DENILIQUIN Netball Club has taken out the reigning champion of the Murray Netball League in the first semi-final at Numurkah yesterday.
Going for a threepeat Echuca United ended the game two goals in arrears after a slow start had them down in the count and eventually out of the running for the 2017 flag.
The Rams will go through to play Tongala in the preliminary final at Cobram this weekend for the remaining grand final spot.
It was an unsettled start from both teams yesterday with neither scoring off their opening centre, but Deniliquin soon took advantage of the game to build an eight-goal lead before the change of ends.
Coach Elle Florance said it was the team’s worst first quarter this season.
‘‘It was a different team to the one we played earlier in the season,’’ she said.
‘‘We adjusted well to that, but our start was a bit muddled and we made a lot of errors we normally wouldn’t.
‘‘After that it was hard for us to work ourselves back into the game and take advantage being so far down at the quarter break.’’
The Rams double-teamed goal shooter Sophie Atkinson in the first quarter, making it difficult for Breanna Bookham and Remy Day to feed into the ring while Gracie Berryman worked overtime in goal attack.
Their defensive pressure down the court caused the most damage in forcing mistakes from United, who despite looking to get a run-on at different stages were never able to draw back the margin, down 6-14 at quarter-time.
‘‘We knew the opposition would probably try and double-team Sophie as it happens most weeks,’’ Florance said.
‘‘We were prepared for that and tried to work the ball outside the ring and be patient with our passes.
‘‘But we made too many unforced errors which turned the ball over in the end.’’
Deniliquin pushed the margin out to 11 goals during the second quarter before United came back to be within six goals at half-time, 18-24.
Amy Gledhill and Klarindah Hudson-Proctor made the most of defensive rebounds, however the Eagles then struggled to bring the ball down the court.
Deniliquin’s goal shooter Amber Marshall set up a lot of play in the ring and goaled really well to be a standout during the match.
She combined well with Rebecca White to share the load under the post and Natalie Thorpe won her position in wing attack and dominated the space around the ring to get the second ball into the shooters with ease.
It saw them increasing the margin back to eight by three-quarter-time, 28-36.
In the third term the Eagles called time to bring on the defensive line-up from the 2016 grand final with Florance coming on into goal keeper, Gledhill into goal defence and Tilly Keenan taking the court at wing defence replacing Liv Bish.
It created better drive down the court and rattled the Rams’ attack end as they began throwing away passes and missing under the post.
The Eagles were determined in their fight for another flag, coming home strongly and managing to claw back the margin as best they could, but it came a little too late in the end as the Rams held on for the win 45-43.
‘‘We always believed the game wasn’t over until the last whistle and knew we needed to keep pushing,’’ Florance said.
‘‘All the girls fought hard to get back in the last quarter, but we made a couple of errors in the final stages that let us down.
‘‘It’s hard knowing we could’ve pushed further into the finals this year.
‘‘Deniliquin just played better on the day and that’s what it comes down to.’’
It was a disappointing finish to A grade’s season, but the Eagles still had seven teams battling it out in finals which Florance said gave them plenty to look forward to from a club perspective.