FINALS MATCH REPORT: Nailbiter as Cougars scrape home in tight win against QUT Wildcats

FINALS MATCH REPORT: Nailbiter as Cougars scrape home in tight win against QUT Wildcats

The Brisbane North Cougars overcame a particularly slow start that saw the QUT Wildcats lead for most of the game, to claim a scrappy two-goal win at the buzzer in the major semi-final of the HART Sapphire Series finals last night (28/09/19).

In a post-match interview, captain Chanel Dyer joked that the slow start was a deliberate strategy to create some drama and entertainment for spectators.

The Cougars finished the season without loss and were widely tipped to win today. One could be forgiven for thinking, even briefly, that a stunt such as this was necessary to generate interest.  

However, as predictable as the final result was, the game itself was anything but with the QUT Wildcats winning the first two quarters and the fourth quarter, in convincing fashion. The third quarter was their undoing, with the Cougars carving out a 10-goal advantage that gave them some breathing room.

The game started with a bang as the QUT Wildcats charged out of the blocks with fast, disciplined netball that saw them build a 4-1 lead just five minutes into the game.

In what was to become a harbinger of the high turnover game – each team racking up 39 turnovers apiece – the first three goals were scored against the centre pass.

However, the highly experienced Cougars dug their claws in and refused to let the QUT Wildcats build an unassailable lead.

By the end of the first quarter, scores were 14-9 to the QUT Wildcats.  

The second quarter was an arm wrestle as the Cougars dug deep and the QUT Wildcats refused to yield.

Two uncharacteristically loose passes from Cougars Macy Gardner (C) resulted in turnovers that contributed to the QUT Wildcats extending their lead to seven goals. Ali McLeod came on shortly afterwards in wing attack as Dyer moved into centre and Gardner was benched.  

In the second quarter, the Cougars struggled to get the ball to their sharpshooters, Rylie Holland (GS) and Binnian Hunt (GA). The QUT Wildcats mid-courters were smothering play.  Captain Hulita Veve (WD) was a good match for McLeod, limiting her range and freedom on the court.

The second quarter ended 21-28 to QUT Wildcats.

Momentum is a funny thing in sport, when a team has it they cling to it; it’s the lucky charm that will deliver victory. When momentum is with you, high balls find the shooter, long bombs land in the right hands and goalers can sink anything from the edge of the circle, finding nothing but net on the way through.

For all the world, the QUT Wildcats had the momentum heading into the third quarter. But, like the Roman goddess Victoria, who delivers victory on her golden wings, momentum is flighty and unpredictable.

In the third quarter, coach Liz White brought Gardner back into wing attack and got the mid-court moving again. An amazing intercept from Dyer across the QUT Wildcats goal circle resulted in a conversion that triggered the Cougars fightback.

Within minutes the scores were level at 30-30 and then with eight minutes to go, Holland scored from a turnover and Cougars hit the lead for the first time in the match.

From then, the Cougars became bolder and more confident in their passing.

As the QUT Wildcats began to sense the goddess Victoria flapping away with their win, their frustration mounted. Leesa Mi Mi was cautioned by the referee when she protested a footwork violation, and despite being out of play Veve repeatedly contacted Dyer as she took a free pass.

The third quarter ended 36-33 to the Cougars, who scored 15 points that quarter to the QUT Wildcats’ five.  

The fourth quarter was a frantic scrap for the ball. With six minutes to go the Cougars had edged away to a five-goal lead, but the high turnover count meant the ball was always ping-ponging its way from one goal circle to the other with conversion.

The physicality of the game was stepping up a level as the clock ran down, but as the QUT Wildcats clawed desperately to regain momentum, time beat them and at the full-time siren it was Cougars 46 – QUT Wildcats 44.

The QUT Wildcats will now play the Jets next week for a grand final berth. The Cougars will now have a week off before the grand final is played on October 13.

Q1: Cougars 9 – Wildcats 14

Q2: Cougars 12 – Wildcats 14

Q3: Cougars 15 – Wildcats 5

Q4: Cougars 12 – Wildcats 13

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