16 Sep Cougars claw their way back to edge out Jets
In what could have been a preview of this year’s Grand Final, the Brisbane North Cougars defeated the Ipswich Jets 51-48 and distanced themselves at the top of the HART Sapphire Series ladder.
The competition’s top two sides entered the fixture with the desire to establish their superiority over their opponents and it was the Jets that announced their intentions first, with an explosive first quarter in which they built an impressive 7-goal lead.
Stephanie O’Brien was moved to Centre from her usual position at Wing Attack and the shift initially paid dividends as she countered her opposite number Maddison Hinchliffe, claimed control over the mid-court alongside the returning Brooke Hams and rapidly fed the ball to the ever-reliable Charlie Bell (30/33) and Lucinda Benjamin (11/15).
In the Jets’ goal circle, Bridey Condren gained an early upper hand against Rylie Holland in their eagerly anticipated battle and benefitted from the temporary absence of Mia Stower, who played for the Queensland Firebirds in the Suncorp Super Netball on the Sunshine Coast just hours prior.
However, the young shooter was introduced late in the first quarter and soon made her presence felt in spite of a corked left calf. With Condren’s attention focused on Holland, Stower was free to shoot from her favoured range and connected well with Chanel Dyer to present more concerns for the Jets’ defensive unit and start closing the gap.
The Cougars’ overall quality cannot be questioned, and their assets were on full display in a dominant third quarter that saw them go from trailing by 5 points to leading by 7. The Brisbane North side showed a renewed drive, and simply outmatched the Jets in all areas, avoiding errors during their centre passes and ruthlessly punishing every loose ball.
Offensively the Jets were rigid and failed to generate scoring chances under extreme defensive pressure, netting just 7 goals in the quarter. Ruby Bakewell-Doran produced her best performance of the season so far, commanding the defensive third and pressing up to the transverse line to initiate transitions and deliver the ball to the now settled Holland (28/32) and Stower (20/32), who gratefully capitalised.
Unfortunately, Bakewell-Doran suffered an ankle injury following a collision with Rosie Baker early in the fourth quarter and had to leave the court, presenting the Jets with an opportunity. The Cougars possibly allowed complacency to creep into their game, and the uncommon pairing of Baker (7/10) and Benjamin were dynamic in attack, proving that Coach Tracey Jeanes-Fraser does not always have to rely on the height of Bell.
However, it was Bell that brought the Jets to the cusp of a draw, reducing the lead to 2 in the dying minutes following her return to the game. Ultimately a few misplaced passes and missed shots cost the Jets dearly and sealed the win for the Cougars, although both sides proved why they are positioned so highly on the ladder and will be optimistic about their chances of winning it all this year.
The Jets will look to return to winning ways when they face the Thunder in a fortnight’s time, while the Cougars play the Wildcats as they aim to maintain their perfect record.
Jets 48 Cougars 51