Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone has defended its national U23 title with a last-gasp 60-58 victory over South Zone at the NZ Age Group Netball Championships in Dunedin.

The highly anticipated rematch of last year’s epic encounter - which WBOP won by just one goal - certainly lived up to the hype but, unfortunately for South, history did repeat.
 
There was no doubting the northern visitors were here to defend their crown, their tenacious approach forcing South onto the back foot from the outset.
 
While defensively Storm Purvis and Phoenix Karaka were snaffling valuable possession, a lack of connections on attack left South Zone struggling for consistency.
 
Under the post, the shots were refusing to sink for Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Olivia Bates, leaving formidable WBOP defenders Jo Trip and Jamie-Lee Price to pounce.
 
WBOP utilised the flair of shooter Malia Paseka to notch up a valuable 12-7 buffer at the first break and continue the momentum into the second spell.
 
Capitalising on the two-point zone being trialled, long range shots from Paseka and goal attack Brooke Leaver enabled WBOP to scorch ahead every time South threatened to pull back within reach, with the visitors boasting a 30-22 lead at halftime.
 
The introduction of centre Sophie Napper and goal attack Kirsten Craig in the second half injected crucial speed for South. Coupled with Selby-Rickit finding her mark from afar, the home team drew level in the dying seconds of the third quarter, just a penalty on the buzzer edging WBOP ahead 45-44.
 
A torrid tussle ensued in the final stanza as the two-point shot reigned supreme, but ultimately WBOP held its nerve best to seal the win.
 
In the Under 19 competition, Manawatu are the New Zealand Age Group Netball Champions for 2014 with a well-deserved win over Eastern Waikato 51-41.

Locked up goal for goal in the first quarter, there was little to separate the two teams who have been in top form all week.Eastern Waikato gained the ascendency in the second spell taking the lead and building a six point buffer before momentum swung back the way of Manawatu. 

One goal in it at the halftime break Manawatu took the more riskier options of shooting the two-point goal with impressive results – shooter Emma May Murray-Fifita sinking goals from the outer shooting circle with ease to edge Manawatu in front as pressure started to build.Seven points the difference in the final stanza and Manawatu pulled away with some disciplined play throughout court to win the Under 19 title, the crowd enjoying the shooting spectacle and tactics deployed through-court with the new rule trials in play.

Manawatu coach John Atkins says the win is good recognition of the talent coming from the region.“It’s also recognition of the programmes we have in place, but also good for the other teams like Eastern Waikato who have done well to make the final as well and the six or seven other teams that could easily have been in the final.

”“Emma (Emma May Murray-Fifita) was shooting two’s today and looking like a machine and was absolutely great, but of course it takes six other players to get the ball down court so that she can do that so it was a total team effort with all ten players contributing,” he said.North Harbour defeated Wellington in the play-off for third and fourth with Auckland 1 and Christchurch rounding out the top six teams.

Please see below for today's results, final placings and the tournament selcentions.

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FINAL PLACINGS
NZU23

  1. Wintec Waikato BOP Zone
  2. Ascot Park Hotel South Zone
  3. Central Zone
  4. North Zone 
  5. Mainland  Zone 
  6. SISSAS

 NZU19

  1. Manawatu
  2. Eastern Waikato
  3. Just Workout North Harbour
  4. Wellington
  5. AMI Auckalnd (1)
  6. Christchurch
  7. Hamilton City
  8. Dunedin
  9. Waitakere
  10. Pukekohe
  11. Taranaki
  12. Papakura
  13. Tasman
  14. Selwyn
  15. Eastern Bay of Plenty 
  16. Howick Pakuranga
  17. AMI Auckland (2)
  18. Wakatipu New World 
  19. Southland

 NZU23 TOURNAMENT SELECTION

  1. Gina Crampton – Ascot Park Hotel South Zone
  2. Gemma Hazeldine – Central Zone
  3. Phoenix Karaka – Ascot Park Hotel South Zone
  4. Malia Paseka – Wintec Waikato BOP Zone
  5. Jamie-Lee Price – Wintec Waikato BOP Zone
  6. Te Paea Selby-Rickit – Ascot Park Hotel South Zone
  7. Samantha Sinclair – Wintec Waikato BOP Zone
  8. Whitney Souness – Central Zone
  9. Jo Trip – Wintec Waikato BOP Zone

Tournament Shooter: Malia Paseka
Tournament Middie: Gina Crampton
Tournament Defender: Jo Trip
 
NZU19 TOURNAMENT SELECTION

  1. Popua Aleamotua – Just Workout North Harbour
  2. Portia Barcello – Tasman
  3. Saskia-Rae Brown – Pukekohe
  4. Charlotte Elley – Christchurch
  5. Monica Falkner – Eastern Waikato
  6. Danielle Gray – Dunedin
  7. Monalisa Groom – Wellington
  8. Fa’amu Loane – Just Workout North Harbour
  9. Emma-May Murray-Fifita – Manawatu
  10. Pania Monk – Eastern Waikato
  11. Chiara Semple – Just Workout North Harbour
  12. Renee Te Riini – Manawatu
  13. Rhegan Tu’Akoi – Eastern Waikato
  14. Deyna Tukere – Eastern Waikato
  15. Betty Tuipulotu – Just Workout North Harbour

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