The Force, led by midcourt livewire Temepara George, took the direct route to the National Bank Cup netball final tonight by upsetting Southern Sting 47-39 in the first semifinal last night.
They trailed 13-16 in the first quarter but took control of the game from the second, with young Catherine Latu coming into her own in the shooting circle.
On the back of a 15 goals to 4 second-quarter, the Force went into halftime 28-20 and never looked back, with player-of-the-match George popping up everywhere to feature in one of the biggest boilovers at Stadium Southland.
Their eight-point win at a venue where visiting teams rarely finish on top of the home side means the Force go into the final, while the Sting have to fight through a second life.
They will meet the winners of the sudden-death semifinal between Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic and the Diamonds in Rotorua on Sunday.
Latu, 20 and who plays both goalshoot and goalkeep, turned sharpshooter to help Force sink 47 goals from 57 attempts.
George, at her bustling best, linked both on attack and defence while at the back former Silver Fern Vilimaina Davu hassled the Sting attack with a physical game and upfront Latu dipped in the goals.
Latu managed 29 from 34 for 85 percent while Megan Dehn shot 18 from 22.
For the Sting, Daneka Wipiiti shot 20 from 30 and Donna Wilkins 19 from 23.
"It was time we put it together. Last week we sort of didn't play the four quarters, and semifinals netball is do or die for us," Force coach Yvonne Willering said.
"I'm very proud of the girls because we really stuck in there for the four quarters.
"The Sting crowd is always wonderful and the Sting always has that tremendous fight-back, but I think we absorbed the pressure in the first quarter and then built our lead from there."
Robyn Broughton, the Sting coach, conceded the better team won.
"I don't think we played very well out there. I think the Force played better than us," she said.
"We just didn't take the physical nature of the game very well, we didn't respond to loose balls. We need to take big steps, whether we can do it next week remains to be seen, but I'd say we can.
Sting defender Jenny Ferguson said the Force's narrow escape last week in a round-robin game gave them an edge last night.
"I think they did get a bit of a wake-up call last week and it did us no favours. They are players of big games and they just wanted it more tonight," she said.
"They had a really good game plan and they made us change our game plan. We struggled to get it through the midcourt, they had great one-on-one d (defence), taught us a good lesson. We'll that on board for next week. We have to go back to the drawing board and rethink our way."
Result: Force 47 Southern Sting 39
First quarter 13-16, halftime 20-28, third quarter 36-33, fulltime 47-39.