ONE of the most exciting premiership races in years became even more complex, after Eaglehawk stunned Gisborne at Gardiner Reserve on Saturday.
The relentless Hawks, powered by 12 final goal quarter goals from Imogen Davies, overcame a five goal half-time deficit, to overrun the Bulldogs 42-36.
It was the second time this season the Hawks have beaten Gisborne and just the second loss this season for the Bulldogs.
Played in frigid and rainy conditions at Gardiner Reserve, Gisborne had the better of the opening two quarters, to lead by two goals at quarter time and five at half-time.
But with Allira Holmes (goal keeper) and Elley Lawton (goal defence) rebounding and intercepting strongly, and the midcourt combination of Ashley Ryan and Bridget Murray igniting their team-mates, the Hawks were able to engineer a remarkable turnaround to win by six goals and snare a valuable four points, to keep their chances of a top three finish alive.
Barring upsets next week for Eaglehawk (against Kyneton) and Kangaroo Flat (against Maryborough), the Hawks and Roos will meet in a tantalising round 18 encounter at Dower Park to decide the double chance.
The Roos held on to third spot with a 42-30 win against fifth-placed South Bendigo at Dower Park, while Sandhurst, which beat Golden Square 59-18 at Wade Street, and Gisborne are already assured the double chance.
An elated Hawks joint coach Holmes praised her girls' fighting spirit and composure under pressure after a stirring come from behind win.
"I know we match up against Gisborne quite well and we were fairly confident coming in. We knew it was going to be a hard match with the weather," she said.
"But the girls have just put together four solid quarters of netball today and we've been working towards a win like that.
"We have been playing well, but our consistency has lacked in areas at times.
"Today I feel that's the brand of netball we want to play all the time. The girls were quite composed - we didn't let things get on top of us - we knew we had a job to do.
"There was only five (goals) in it at half time, but that's only three turnovers. We just put our mind to it - everyone had a job to do and that was to keep possession when we had our centres."
Gisborne will be rueing its chance to potentially nail down top spot ahead of finals and next weekend's tough top-two showdown against Sandhurst.
Star Bulldogs player Maddy Stewart could not hide her disappointment after being on the end of a second close defeat to the Hawks this season.
"We had a lot of the ball and just wasted so many opportunities - we were a bit undisciplined with how we finished things off," she said.
"They forced us into making those errors, it's probably a wake up call for us with making those errors. We'll need to be more disciplined going forward.
"Both times we've played them we've started off well but dropped off - it was more the third quarter, which got us, and that last five minutes.
"There's certainly some things to address if we come up against them in finals."
Meanwhile, Kyneton put some space between itself and Maryborough in the battle for sixth spot, with a 59-53 win over the Magpies.
It was the Tigers' first win since their victory over Golden Square in June 22 and puts them on 26 points, six ahead of Maryborough.
The Tigers and Magpies are separated by Strathfieldsaye, which picked up four points for the bye, to move to 24.
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