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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defeated 49-68 by the Robinhood Stars - June 2, 2022

Failing to match the energy and determination of its opponent, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel was trounced 49-68 by the Robinhood Stars in Auckland tonight.

With hosting rights to the ANZ Premiership elimination final at stake, the Stars barely faltered throughout the encounter to secure home turf advantage.

A ferocious start to proceedings had the southerners on the back foot almost immediately and a dire 7-minute hiatus in the scoring stakes did not bode well. While a gutsy stint saw the Steel venture back within three early in the second spell, the momentum was fleeting as the Stars again asserted control in all facets of play.

Steel captain Shannon Saunders was brutally honest in her assessment.

“I’m really disappointed. The hunger wasn’t there, we looked really weak and like we were just giving up on things. They were so clinical on attack – some of their plays were beautiful to watch,” she told Sky Sport.

“On attack we just played into their hands with some basic errors you can’t afford to do against a team like that.

“We were struggling to get onto circle edge. We were getting really wide which is what happened in that fourth quarter in our last game so I’m disappointed we didn’t learn from it.”

The Steel has less than 48 hours to turn its fortunes around against the Splice Construction Magic in Hamilton on Saturday.

“Luckily that’s not our last game and we don’t have to finish on that note. It’s really important to finish with a win. We’ve had a really inconsistent season so it would be nice to finish on a positive note with a performance that we’re proud of because I think tonight we really let ourselves down,” Saunders said.

It was a clinical performance from the Stars who extended their advantage at each of the breaks in a confidence-boosting preparation ahead of meeting either the MG Mystics or Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse next week for a place in the Grand Final.

Needing extra time to complete a two-goal win over the Steel just five days ago, the Stars were a class above their opponents on this occasion. All areas of their court played a part for a rampant Stars in crafting a season-defining performance.

It was a tough day at the office for the Steel who never got going, lacking their usual drive and resilience in failing to make an impression against an ever-improving Stars outfit.

The reschedule Round 4 match was the last of the regular season for the Stars, who were back on court after playing just 24 hours earlier.

Missing their last outing with an ankle injury, goal defence Elle Temu returned to the Stars starting seven in an otherwise unchanged line-up. For the Steel, training partner Kate Hartley again assumed the wing defence role in the continued absence of an injured Renee Savai’inaea.

Showing their blueprint for the upcoming Finals Series, the home side were all over the Steel in the opening stanza.

Midcourter Gina Crampton and shooter Maia Wilson showed their growing form of recent weeks with sharp starts.

At the other end, the Stars defensive unit of Holly Fowler, Temu and Anna Harrison had their opponents on the back foot early on, time and again forcing errors and leaving the Steel high and dry in terms of scoring opportunities.

Five unanswered goals while leaving the Steel scoreless for almost seven minutes pushed the Stars into a position of comfort, prompting the introduction of shooter Saviour Tui and defender Sarahpheinna Woulf for the visitors.

The changes paid off, a strong finish by the Steel helping reduce the margin to a 13-9 advantage to the Stars at the first break.

With more ball getting into the hands of prolific shooter George Fisher, the Steel made the perfect start on the resumption. Three goals on the trot pulled the visitors’ back to within two but simple errors continued to plague the Steel.

The Stars needed no second invitation, Harrison and Temu gobbling up turnover ball while the Crampton/Wilson connection continued to flourish as the home side put their foot down.

With the momentum going their way, the Stars skipped out to a healthy 31-22 lead at the main break leaving the Steel with plenty to ponder.

The Steel continued to make personnel changes, the visitors constructing a much more competitive third quarter but making inroads against the well-drilled Stars proved difficult.

The home side continued to impress on attack with goal attack Jamie Hume chipping in to complement Crampton with the slick service to Wilson. Stars captain, Wilson, retained her stellar form with a dominant showing, her movement and accuracy being key features.

The Stars showed few chinks in their armour, ball security being top of the list and leaving the Steel few opportunities to pocket any gains. The Steel struggled to break the Stars hold on the game, finding little flow or rhythm, the floodgates opening in the final few minutes of the spell as the home side rocketed into a 48-36 lead at the last turn.

Official Result and Stats:
Robinhood Stars: 68
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 49

Shooting Stats - Stars:
Maia Wilson 51/55 (93%)
Jamie Hume 15/17 (88%)
Amorangi Malesala 2/4 (50%)

Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 33/35 (94%)
Saviour Tui 9/13 (69%)
Georgia Heffernan 7/9 (78%)

MVP: Maia Wilson (Stars)


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