Magpies pushed by plucky Pakenham

Erin Bell was the centre of attention in Narre Warren's win over Pakenham. 399539 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

A spirited effort from Pakenham against a competition heavyweight was not enough for the brave Lions to overcome the all-conquering Narre Warren at home in the Outer East Football Netball A Grade netball competition on Saturday afternoon.

The Lions fought hard for three quarters but lacked the shooting prowess and depth of talent across the court that the Magpies wield, going down 57-50 under grey skies at Toomuc Reserve.

Erin Bell returned to the starting lineup for the Magpies and it was clear that both sides had made her a focus.

With a height advantage over Caitlin Cooke, Chelsea Tonna and the remaining Magpies looked to find Bell with every opportunity close to the net, with the veteran displaying all her professional nous in a brilliant display of post-play in the goal circle.

Cooke looked to have her hands full, but received great support from further up the court in an effort to limit the number of passes into the goal circle, and Charlize Reid switched onto her when the opportunities came.

Tonna, meanwhile, was afforded space by the Pakenham defensive pair to shoot in an effort to keep the ball out of Bell’s hands

Jordyn Adams and Millicent Utber played critical roles in the midcourt, as Adams showed what is quickly become a trademark ability of hers to intercept opposition passes in flight.

Pakenham’s shooters, in Kelly Cousins and Charlotte Hudolin, lacked the supply of their counterparts in black and white, but took the chances when they came.

Pakenham led 16-14 at the first break before Narre Warren found their groove in an impressive second term.

Sophie Hennessey’s energy and height on the wings gave the Magpies a point of difference in a quarter where they outscored the hosts 15-10.

A six-minute period where Narre Warren scored nine of 10 goals flipped the score from 18-16 in Pakenham’s favour to a 20-27 Narre Warren lead, but Pakenham closed strong to make it just a three-goal margin at the long break.

The third term was a goal-for-goal affair, with Pakenham refusing to defer to the reigning champions despite their standing and status.

Pakenham coach Matthew Cooke moved Adams to goal defence and used the smaller but quicker Kaitlyn Jones in the middle.

Adams’ size helped to combat Bell and Grace Ioelu in the Narre Warren goal circle but not enough to make major inroads in the scoreline.

While the third quarter margin never stretched beyond five goals, Pakenham could not close the gap to smaller than two.

Narre Warren took a five goal lead into the final term, and did their best to shut the door on the prospect of an upset with a dominant opening to the fourth quarter.

Six of the quarters first seven goals went in the Magpies’ net as they raced out to a game-high 10-goal lead after six minutes.

The Lions fought the contest out to the end and outscored the Magpies in the quarter after the initial onslaught, but failed to reel the lead in, falling seven goals short.

While not the final result that the Lions would have wanted, the performance will no doubt fill Cooke and the coaching staff with confidence heading into the back half of the season with a favourable draw that does not feature contests with Wandin or Mt Evelyn.

Erin Bell finished with 32 goals for Narre Warren, with Hennessey and Brittany Mashado among the Magpies’ best.

One of the most significant contests of the season, however, took place at Mt Evelyn between the Rovers and Bulldogs, where the Rovers suffered a second consecutive loss.

With scores tied at 43-apiece between two of the competition’s best sides, Wandin scores four of the final six goals to reverse a three-quarter-time deficit into a two-goal win.

Mt Evelyn led for much of the first half and even held a six-goal lead late in the first term, but an even second half saw the lead change ownership a number of times in a tense battle.

Mt Evelyn dropped to third on the table as a result of the back-to-back losses, now a game and half now 1.5 games back from Wandin in second place.

Wandin and Narre Warren appear destined for a top-two finish and a first week off, barring a series of upsets in the closing six weeks of competition.

Pakenham’s loss and Monbulk’s low-scoring win over Upwey Tecoma sees the Hawks leapfrog Pakenham into fourth place, now two points clear of the Lions in fourth.

Elsewhere, a monster 56-goal haul from Kaylah Loulanting helped Emerald to a 70-44 win over Olinda Ferny Creek at home.

It’s the seventh-highest individual scoring haul from any A-Grade player in 2024 and the first score of 50 or more for Loulanting in what has been a stunning maiden year in Premier Division A-Grade that has her in contention for the leading goalscorer award come season’s end.

ROC’s finals chances took a major hit thanks to a 56-50 loss to Woori Yallock, leaving them now three games back from sixth-placed Emerald, and Gembrook Cockatoo secured a first win since round two in a 49-23 result over Berwick Springs.