Open Championship: 'Outstanding' Cullen the key as Wests 2 edge Pride in single-goal thriller | photos

CENTRE CATALYST: Hannah Cullen provided the spark West Leagues Balance 2 needed to claim a 39-38 victory over Souths Pride. Picture: Isaac McIntyre
CENTRE CATALYST: Hannah Cullen provided the spark West Leagues Balance 2 needed to claim a 39-38 victory over Souths Pride. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

West Leagues Balance 2 secured an “extremely important” 39-38 win over Souths Pride in the Greater Open Championship, moving four points clear of last place in the competition standings.

It was a particularly crucial match for the second Wests team, coach Tracey Baggs explained, due to the lack of a “consistent line-up” in recent weeks, and the chance to close in on the mid-table pack.

“Apart from last week’s loss to Souths Lions, [the team] have been very competitive,” she said. “The result was reflective of how competitive this year’s Greater Open is.”

The one-goal thriller fell the way of Wests 2 due to an “outstanding” performance from Hannah Cullen, coach Baggs explained.

Cullen – who also plays for Central Coast Heart’s development squad in the state league – shone in the centre role, dictating play and providing Wests a platform for which to achieve their crucial win.

Baggs also praised Pride’s Abbey Carr as key for the opposing team.

YOUNG GUN: Hannah Cullen has been shining for West Leagues Balance 2 and the Central Coast Heart under 20s in the 2018 season. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

YOUNG GUN: Hannah Cullen has been shining for West Leagues Balance 2 and the Central Coast Heart under 20s in the 2018 season. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

Elsewhere at National Park, Wests League Balance 1 kept control of first place with a 53-37 victory over BNC Whanau.

The league-leading team has kept an undefeated streak in the Open Championship, and star shooter Maddie Taylor said their BNC win was “great”, especially due to Sophie Buckley, Tara Andrews and Danielle Canizzo all not being available to play.

“We were missing a few key players, so we were a little concerned, but we managed to pull through with the win,” Taylor said.

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The defending champions will look to extend their nine game winning streak as the second round of fixtures continues in Newcastle’s top grade, and Taylor believes preparation will be key.

“It’s going into the second round now so every team wants to come out and win,” she said. “There’s a few teams that are fighting for those last places in the top four so you have to prepare for every game.”

Also on Saturday afternoon, Forsythes and Souths Lions battled their way to a 43-47 result, falling in favour of the second-placed club. Forsythes remain in third, ahead of BNC and Nova Thunder on goal percentage.

Although the team lost, the squad was bolstered by the return of Natasha Robards as keeper. Robards spent the opening eight rounds of the season on the sideline, recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off.

Natasha Robards returned as Forsythes' keeper after a lengthy injury lay-off.

Natasha Robards returned as Forsythes' keeper after a lengthy injury lay-off.

Nova had also moved onto 23 points after Maryville Tavern forfeit their round nine match. The default defeat leaves Maryville just a single point ahead of Wests 2, and five points adrift of the mid-table pack.

TABLE: Wests 1 (31), Lions (27), Forsythes, Nova, BNC (23), Maryville (18), Wests 2 (17), Pride (13)

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