Sweet win for Mannas over Dolphins

Sweet win for Mannas over Dolphins
The Mission Mannas beat the Blaze Dolphins 53-47 in a comeback win at the Cheers Netball Super League.

They were trailing 10 points behind a team that they had never beaten in the Cheers Netball Super League this season.

But Mission Mannas clawed their way back to a gritty 53-47 win yesterday against bogey team Blaze Dolphins in the grand final at Toa Payoh Sports Hall after losing twice in their previous three meetings.

When defeat looked inevitable, the Mannas looked towards the past for inspiration.

Said captain Nurul Baizura: "We've been down by 15 points before in the preliminary rounds against Sneakers (Stingrays) - and we won 48-47."

The Dolphins started out strongly, leading 14-13 after the first 15-minute quarter.

Sharp, quick play coupled with an 81 per cent shooting accuracy rate by Fijian international Unouna Afa Rusivakula and retired national player Li Ling increased their lead to 31-21 by half-time.

The Mannas then drastically changed their line-up, fielding their goalkeeper, 1.96m-tall Chen Li Li, as goal-shooter for a height advantage over the Dolphins' defensive players.

It was a risk - Chen had never played alongside goal-attack Natalie Long before - but it paid off.

They stormed the court in the third quarter, breaking through a solid Dolphins' defence to score 17 goals and finish at 38-41 down.

After equalising at 44-44, 61/2 minutes into the final quarter, they shut out their opponents, scoring nine more goals and never relinquishing the lead.

"I think we started really well," said Dolphins' captain Lin Qingyi. She credited her opponents' play and late surge, adding: "The changes worked really well for them - I guess we didn't adapt fast enough."

Mannas' vice-captain Premila Hirubalan explained that the team had taken heart and gained confidence from topping the league table in each round of the tournament, despite having never beaten the Dolphins.

The tournament featured a double round-robin stage and a semi-final round. The teams had drawn 41-41 in the first round, while the Mannas lost 47-48 in the second. They also lost 43-48 in the semi-final and had to fight for their place in the grand final in a preliminary final.

Interestingly, however, the Mannas started their tournament with a 39-38 victory over three-time defending champions Magic Marlins. Featuring heavily in defence, Premila had kept the team in the game with a string of stunning saves, drawing applause from the 300-strong crowd.

"I don't think it crossed anyone's minds when we were 10 points down that we might lose," she said.

"As captain, I thought, I have to lead now, in not giving up," added Baizura. "That we're capable of this and we just need to keep it going, keep it going."

This article was first published on May 25, 2014.
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