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OLDHAM NC
WIN U14
GRAND FINALS 

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Turnford was crowned queens of the YNPL after a replica performance of the last time they won this competition against long-term rivals Poole NC. Back in 2021 they came to the WLV Gym and destroyed Poole in the first quarter to win the title as a U13 side and in 2023 in the same venue they did the same as a U15 side. Defensively perfect, slowing down the Poole attacks and then executing turnovers, it was a masterclass in how a targeted approach to an opponent is so key at such a high level.

This particular set of teams has seen the South dominate now since 2020. As we have moved through the age groups Turnford and Poole have dominated the netball landscape and they came into this competition as once again hot favourites to win this event at a U15 level. Due to the calibre of the teams competing, winning this event would ultimately show who is the No.1 team in the country and we had a highly competitive set of quarter-final fixtures that would set the tone for days action.

To start, Turnford took on Grangetown. This fixture was the third time in 3yrs it would materialise and coming into this game the score was 1-1 between the two sides. After last season's shock defeat to Grangetown at this stage of the event, Turnford was in no mood to allow themselves to compete in the 5th-8th play-offs and dispatched the North East powerhouse with ease to cruise into the semi-finals. Poole who was hunting a back-to-back Grand Finals victory was pegged back by Ellesmere Port in the first two quarters of their game. They did move ahead in the second half and got the win but a reminder of the quality this event processes. Oldham in this age group was competing for the first time and was expected to blow away debutants Magic NC. It wasn't to be the case though with Magic showing they were more than a match for the North West giants and Oldham had to work for the win up to the final whistle. A result that meant they would meet Poole NC in the semi-final.

The final game of the quarter-finals was a classic. YWCA Bury took on AP Saints NC and the consensus was this was going to be a straight forward win for Bury. AP Saints though process a rawness to their play and if everything comes together in regards to tactical and individual performance they can match near enough any team in the country. The tie began with YWCA Bury on the front foot who were moving through the court smoothly and their shooters confidently scoring. Midway through the quarter AP Saints started to feed the ball more directly into their six-foot plus shooter who grew in confidence with every goal she scored. This was the catalyst for AP Saints to identify a weakness in the Bury set up and they focussed on feeding their shooter as quickly as possible and this led to them going in after the first quarter two points ahead. The second quarter was littered with misplaced passes and shots, but AP Saints still managed to lead at halftime by a single goal. YWCA Bury has a habit of winning games at the back end of the allocated time and it was going to be interesting going into the third quarter if they could overcome a resilient AP Saints. The third quarter was once again dominated by the defences who were forcing mistakes meaning both attacks couldn't get into any flow, this suited AP Saints more and they went into the final quarter a goal up. The final quarter was epic and saw YWCA Bury take the lead and then AP Saints had to now chase them down. Bury was a goal up going into the final minute and they decided to keep it instead of going for goal and killing the game. A mistake though gave the ball back to AP Saints with twenty seconds on the clock and they nervously got the ball into their shooter who scored with one second left on the clock to force overtime. In overtime, the game was a goal for goal but AP Saints were too slow at the back end of the first overtime half to get the ball into the shooter which meant Bury was ahead by one and then they had the centre pass in the second half of overtime. This was to be the deciding factor in the tie, Bury scored off their centre pass and then professionally ran down the clock to dump AP Saints out of the championship games.

The first semi-final was between YWCA Bury and Turnford. Bury started the better by pinning down Turnford in the first few minutes to show they were more than a match for the Southern Champions. After a few minutes, Turnford managed to get back into the game and their shooting circle was starting to enjoy success. Turnford were struggling with the Bury wing attack who was controlling the game and she provided two moments of magic to put Bury into the lead going into the second quarter after two amazing passes. In the second quarter, Sam Bird made some adjustments that stopped the Bury wing attack from having so much success, this slowed down Bury and Turnford capitalised by going into a two-goal lead, but it could have been more if not for some very uncharacteristic missed shots from the goal shooter. Bury never know when they're beaten and scored back-to-back goals before the end of the second quarter to go in halftime 13-13. Both teams were still going goal for goal in the third but with around three minutes to go the game started to unravel. It all started with an amazing interception from the Turnford wing attack which put Turnford two points ahead and then on their centre pass they made it three points. Another interception from Turnford but this time the goalkeeper meant they went down the other end to score once again and they went into the final quarter four goals up. The final quarter saw Turnford control the game and they went on to win 31-22 in what was another incredible advert for youth netball.

Poole NC took on Oldham in the other semi-final and was tipped to be just as entertaining and close as the previous semi-final. The opening quarter was providing us with enough evidence our evaluation was correct and both sides gave up nothing and went into the second quarter 9-9. In the second quarter the script we anticipated would materialise was completely ripped to shreds with Poole showcasing exception netball that Oldham couldn't cope with. The speed of play down the court and triangles in the shooting circles was truly amazing to watch and this remained the theme thorough-out the rest of the game Poole convincingly won the game and sent a clear message to Turnford that they were ready for their game against them in the final.

It was the time for the ultimate finale of an amazing weekend of netball. Turnford would take on Poole to see who would become the ENG U15 YNPL Grand Finals 2023 National Champions. Back in 2021 Turnford won this event as a U13 team in the same venue, against the same team and did it by dominating the opening quarter and getting a convincing lead going into the rest of the game. Just like putting a repeat on a movie, it turned out the same again. Turnford and Poole started the game nervously but went goal for goal early on, but Poole was struggling to move the ball through the court with Turnford defensively set up to slow them down. A disastrous few minutes materialised for Poole who had no answer for the defensive set-up Turnford had in place which was forcing the turnovers and then Turnford would attack and score with ease. The score after the first quarter was an incredible 9-2 to Turnford. The second quarter started relatively the same as the first ended, with Turnford dominating the play, but Poole mustered a late surge at the back end of the quarter and brought the game back to within five points and it was now game on. Poole needed to continue the third quarter as they finished the second, but still struggled to find that consistency needed to get a run of goals that would allow them to believe they could go on and win the game. With missed shots and hesitant play due to the presence of the Turnford defence, it allowed Turnford to go in front further and with their shooters not missing hardly it looked even more likely that the championship would be going back to Hertfordshire, Poole needed to play out of their skins in the final quarter, but once again they huffed and puffed as the more confident Turnford were happy to soak up the pressure, force the turnovers and then attack and score. The dream ending to this wonderful rivalry would have been a close game but credit to Turnford who expertly avoided the Hollywood ending we all wanted and went on to win the game 32-20 and be crowned the No.1 team in the country and forever put to bed the question we have been asking for many years and that was who would be remembered as the better team in years to come.
 

Positions:

1st: Turnford NC

2nd: Poole NC

3rd: Oldham NC

4th: YWCA Bury

5th: AP Saints NC

6th: Ellesmere Port

7th: Grangetown NC

8th: Magic NC

MVP: Zaneya Cunningham (Turnford)

All Star Team: Ella-Rose Bloomfield Bowmaker (Turnford NC), Maisie Treanor (YWCA Bury), Rhianne Fenton (Grangetown), Georgie Southworth (EP Netball), Jeslyn Ogbeta (AP Saints NC), Abi Du Preez (Magic NC), Gracie Gerrish (Poole NC), Shannon Mahlik (Oldham NC)

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