Jets hold off improving Bull Sharks

Jets hold off improving Bull Sharks

Finn Daniel

The Ipswich Jets were challenged by a resurgent Bull Sharks side running on confidence from their first win of the season, but produced enough quality to claim a nine goal victory.

Following the USC Thunder’s triumph the day prior, the Bull Sharks knew that winning this game was essential to maintain hopes of reaching the HART Sapphire Series finals.

That would be no simple feat against a Jets team that has lost only once this season and was indomitable in the pair’s first encounter, bettering their opponents by a margin of 20 goals.

The opening minutes featured two well-organised, tactically astute defences that the rival attackers struggled to break down, resulting in a drawn score line of just 4-4 after 7 minutes of action.

Charlie Bell was not among the starters for the Jets and while Lucinda Benjamin and Rosie Baker showed promising movement in and around the goal circle, the final touch was often missing, prompting Coach Tracey Jeanes-Fraser to introduce Bell halfway through the quarter.

The change worked, as Bell quickly and assuredly scored back-to-back goals and appeared to increase her side’s confidence. However, the Bull Sharks were not prepared to surrender and finished the first term with a narrow 12-10 lead.

The Bull Sharks’ defensive guile has proved their main strength so far this season, and the partnership between Shenae Grant and Emily Gilbert continued to blossom as both forced early turnovers. On this occasion their quality was matched at the other end by the fast-improving shooting of Stephanie Bairstow and the tireless work ethic of Ella Bertacchini.

While the Bond University side impressed the enthusiastic home crowd, their lead did not last for long as the Jets gradually imposed themselves on the fixture. Despite not playing at their best, the Sapphire Series’ second-placed team still possessed the ability to punish the slightest Bull Sharks error, and rapidly transport the ball to the goal circle through Stephanie O’Brien and Brooke Hams.

Both teams fatigued as the game progressed courtesy of the early pressure applied by the Bull Sharks, but the Jets were able to rely on their squad depth to remain in front. Monique French offered a viable alternative at centre and Kaitlin Pollock, returning after childbirth, supplied valuable energy in chasing down loose balls.

Kristen Oxenford was required to play close to the entire game for the Bull Sharks and kept her side in the hunt as she has done so each week, tussling competitively with the similarly experienced O’Brien and collaborating proficiently with teammate Rylee Burns, who was also on the court for all four quarters.

Errors began to mount as the encounter drew to a close and the Bull Sharks desperately tried to gain ground in what ended up being a very low-scoring final quarter. Although they failed to cause an upset, Coach Sheryl Burns should be pleased with the determination shown by her players as they held the Jets to their lowest-scoring performance of the 2020 season.

The Jets and the Bull Sharks will return to the HART Sapphire Series in a fortnight’s time following the conclusion of the Suncorp Super Netball season.

Bull Sharks 35 Jets 44

Q1 12-10

Q2 21-23

Q3 30-36

Q4 35-44

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