All four teams left everything in the water at AUT Millennium’s National Aquatic Centre in tonight’s NZWPNL men’s semi-finals.
Table-toppers Marist Magic edged ahead of the Waitakere Blue Devils 9-8 in a hugely competitive game, but the clash between North Harbour Cootes Construction and Hutt Heat topped it, with North Harbour claiming the ultimate comeback from three down in the last quarter to penalties, where they won 14-13.
SEMI-FINAL ONE: MARIST MAGIC 9 v WAITAKERE BLUE DEVILS 8
MAR: Thomas Kingsmill, Phil Howat 1, Cayne Dew, Ryan Pike 2, Alex Berenfeld 1, Matt Small 3, Callum Maxwell, Liam Paterson, Fabian Wanrooij 1, Chris Cormack 1, Richard Chambers, Matthew Lewis, Ben Fleming. Coach: Reza Soleimani, Manager: Christine Lewis.
WTK: Sid Dymond, Nick Stankovich 1, Daniel Cameron, Sean Newcombe, Rai Santiveri 2, Jamie Cameron, Daniel Cercols 2, Craig Hustler 1, Nick Paterson 2, Scott Graham. Coach: Goran Sablic. Manager: Lisa Armstrong.
Both NZWPNL men's semi-finals were streamed via Facebook Live - watch the first semi-final here.
The 2015 champions Waitakere Blue Devils were on the board first, scoring through Nick Paterson who walked the ball in from the top on six-on-five. For the only other goal of the quarter, Marist Magic responded from an off-the-ball kick out where Liam Paterson found Matt Small who put it away for 1-1.
Small scored three in the Magic's 9-8 win over the Blue Devils
There would be no more goals for the next nine minutes of the game as each team went toe-to-toe. Again the Magic found the back of the net through a counter-attack, with Howat, Small, and Cormack heading down the pool with speed to allow Small to score his second of the game at 4:56 in the second. In front of goal, Ryan Pike made space and got the ball past Waitakere goalkeeper Sid Dymond for 3-1. Just as the Magic looked to gain momentum, the Blue Devils kicked into gear through Daniel Cercols (2) and Nick Paterson to string together three in a row and roar into the lead 4-3. Magic’s Small had the last say of the first half, shooting off of a foul at 7 meters to level 4-4.
Just as the Blue Devils had done, Magic made it three in a row with a counter attack goal that came from a Matt Lewis cross-pass to meet the hand of Phil Howat, and Lewis again combined and set up an Alex Berenfeld backhand for 6-4. Just as they had looked to have fallen asleep after the half time break momentum swung again in favour of the Blue Devils who scored three. It was ignited at first by Rai Santiveri who scored a cross-cage shot of off the foul, and then backed it up with a long bomb from eight meters that flew into the back of the net for level 6-6. The streak ended when Craig Hustler put the Blue Devils ahead 6-7, but it would be Marist Magic who scored the last two goals of the quarter (Pike, Christ Cormack) for 8-7 into the final break.
In the fourth and final quarter, Nick Paterson was excluded on his last major allowing Richard Chambers to fling the ball from one wing to the other for Fabian Wanrooij to convert for a Magic two-goal lead with two minutes left on the clock. Down the other end, a lob from the wing from Nick Stankovich was good and made it just a one goal buffer to climb. The last moments of the match were full of action with two time-out moves and a yellow card, Santiveri stole the ball in the final seconds and put a shot up on the buzzer but the Magic held on 9-8 and progress to the NZWPNL final at 1:45pm Sunday.
SEMI-FINAL TWO: HUTT HEAT 13 v NORTH HARBOUR COOTES CONSTRUCTION 14
HUT: Josh de Reeper, Lachie Watson, Jack Ross, Cameron Hayes 1, Sean Bryant 4, Hamish Booker, Matt Quin, Conor Lui, Matt Bryant 3, Jerome McGuinness 3, Adam Pye 2. Coach: Craig McGuinness, Assistant: Chris Naylor, Manager: Sheryl McGuinness.
NHB: Dylan Smith, Jake Lockwood, Jono Houzet, Dave Couper 1, Finn Lowery, Alex MacKenzie 2, Rowan Brown, Owen Chambers 1, James McLean 1, Anton Sunde 5, Matt Morris, Jonny Clarke 4, Mitchell Goff. Coach: Zoltan Ridzyk, Assistant: Nick Grieve.
Both NZWPNL men's semi-finals were streamed via Facebook Live - watch the second semi-final here.
Just a week ago, Hutt Heat and North Harbour clashed at the same pool and it was the visiting Heat who were too hot for home team North Harbour 10-9, although Hutt Heat did stage an almighty comeback.
On Saturday and in the semi-final where it mattered the most, both teams pulled out all the stops to earn their spot in the final. It took North Harbour just eleven seconds to get on the board through James McLean from centre forward. Hutt Heat’s first goal came from a huge shot from Matt Bryant who rocketed the ball from halfway past North Harbour goalkeeper Dylan Smith for 1-1. The Heat made it three in a row and had all the momentum when Jerome McGuinness scored a bar-down backhand, followed by a cross-cage shot from Sean Bryant for 3-1. A wise time out from North Harbour coach Zoltan Ridzyk stunted the Hutt momentum, and the Turtles claimed the last goal of the quarter through Anton Sunde off of a rebound.
Jonny Clark scored four goals for North Harbour in their semi-final penalties win over Hutt Heat
From a Sean Bryant offload on a man up, Jerome McGuinness scored his second of the match for 4-2. The next two went the way of North Harbour through Jonny Clark on a six-on-five, followed up by left-hander Anton Sunde with a cross-cage ripper for 4-4. Hutt Heat then scored down the other end by means of a penalty shot through Cameron Hayes. North Harbour outscored Hutt Heat for the quarter when Clark drew level at 1:01 from a post pop on a man-up and it was 5-5 at the half.
Jerome McGuinness gave a helicopter backhand a nudge but it caught the bar and he was then excluded down the other end but North Harbour couldn’t convert. The first goal of the third quarter did go the way of the home team almost halfway through the quarter when Couper earned an exclusion from a drive and Clarke let one loose and took the lead 6-5. The two sides went toe-to-toe as the score hit 7-7, but the quarter proved pivotal for the Heat as the put two goals in the back of the net (McGuinness, Sean Bryant) for a 9-7 lead at the last break.
They made the gap three at 6:02 when Adam Pye executed a brilliant shot on man-up for 10-7. North Harbour, however, were not down and out and did what they needed to do to stay alive in the NZWPNL and pieced three goals together (Anton Sunde 2, Jonny Clarke) to force the game into a penalty shoot-out.
Buoyed by a home crowd, North Harbour outscored Hutt Heat in the penalty shoot-out 14-13 and secured the chance to go for back-to-back NZWPNL titles.
Sunday 2nd July
12:00pm: Waitakere Blue Devils v Hutt Heat
1:45pm: Marist Magic v North Harbour Cootes Construction
Tune in to the live stream of both games on the New Zealand Water Polo Facebook page – coverage will appear once the stream starts.