Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defeated Robinhood Stars 71-62 - March 27, 2022
An invigorated Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel earned redemption with a 71-62 victory over the Robinhood Stars at ILT Stadium Southland today.
There’s no denying it was a stark contrast to the Steel team which delivered a lackluster performance just six days earlier.
Steel’s defensive prowess played a pivotal role in the victory, injecting momentum at crucial times to earn the home side the ascendency. Kate Burley and Renee Savai’inaea proved particularly lethal in their roles, backed up by the unflappable Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.
Captain Shannon Saunders delivered an MVP worthy performance with an unrivalled work rate throughout the match in the centre bib.
While the visitors threatened sporadically, any switch in energy simply spurred the southerners into action.
Steel vice-captain Selby-Rickit told Sky Sport it had been a week of self-reflection.
“We were really disappointed with last week – that was a good old-fashioned hiding,” she said.
“Because we’d made so many individual mistakes it was really about looking at ourselves and seeing what we could each do better.
“We really had to fix up basic errors. We each made silly mistakes whether it was a dropped ball or bad passing. So, this week it was about doing our basics right and I think the girls really lifted up so we’re happy.”
The Steel of old returned against the Stars. Able to use all their bench, and reverting to their traditional possession-based game, the Steel built throughout to hold the lead at each break with the last quarter being drawn.
With shooter George Fisher producing a dominant outing under the Steel hoop, going on to deliver a stellar 51 from 52 return, and Burley and Savai’inaea collecting seven intercepts between them, it was difficult for the Stars to gather any consistent momentum.
Having 70 goals scored against them last week, the Steel posted 71 of their own this week to turn the tables in a dramatic shift in form.
Sitting out last week with injury, wing defence Savai’inaea made her return to the Steel line-up while captain Saunders reverted to her more familiar wing defence position.
Back with the Stars, Kayla Johnson made her return to the ANZ Premiership for the first time since 2019 when taking on the wing defence role. With influential defender Anna Harrison and midcourter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan absent for this match, Holly Fowler slotted in at goal defence while Greer Sinclair started at centre.
Both sides made positive starts with their attacking play but it was the Steel who were first to show their hand.
Savai’inaea had a rollicking start through two early intercepts and strong driving play through court while Saunders relished her move back to wing attack in forming a key link with Fisher.
Starting at centre for the first time, Sinclair made a positive impact with her fellow feeder Gina Crampton but it was the home side who capitalised better on their opportunities to forge a 16-14 lead at the first break.
With three in a row on the resumption, it was the Steel who set the tone for the second stanza as they rattled the Stars into error.
The Fisher-Saunders combination continued to flourish providing the Steel with slick and clinical movement on attack as a steady stream of quality ball headed into the circle.
The Stars had their moments, surging back through pacey through-court play and the accuracy of Maia Wilson and the long-range exploits of Jamie Hume. But the visitors were unable to maintain any consistent passages of play.
Winning more defensive turnovers, the Steel were quick and effective with their transition in extending their lead at the main break to 34-28 with Fisher hitting a perfect 29 from 29.
With Saviour Tui and Georgia Heffernan sharing the goal attack duties for the Steel, England international Fisher remained the constant, her impeccable timing and accuracy helping keep the home side on the front foot.
Coaxed out of retirement, Emma Iversen provided fresh legs when coming on at centre for the Stars in the second half.
Stars defender Elle Temu slowly worked her way into the game to add some timely hustle while Crampton provided the spark on attack but the Steel had an answer for anything thrown at them.
With defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Kate Burley, in particular, having a blinder against her former team, the Steel pushed out to a handy 51-42 lead at the last break.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 71
Robinhood Stars: 62
Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 51/52 (98%)
Saviour Tui 11/14 (79%)
Georgia Heffernan 9/10 (90%)
Shooting Stats - Stars:
Maia Wilson 45/49 (92%)
Jamie Hume 17/22 (77%)
Amorangi Malesala 0/1 (0%)
MVP: Shannon Saunders (Steel)