Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel Defeated by the Trident Homes Tactix - May 4, 2022
The Trident Homes Tactix have earned bragging rights in tonight’s ANZ Premiership South Island derby, defeating the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 63-52 at ILT Stadium Southland.
It was always going to be a battle for the southerners after 80 percent of the team was struck by Covid over the past fortnight but it was an admirable return to the action nonetheless.
The Tactix never truly edged ahead in the first half, testament to the Steel’s rugged determination on home turf. The visitors snatched the ascendancy during a dominant third phase and continued the momentum to the final whistle, extending the score line beyond the respectable margin the Steel deserved for their sheer fortitude.
Bib shuffling was rife throughout the encounter as head coach Reinga Bloxham responsibly managed a return to play for her athletes, together with the absence of key defensive trio Kate Burley, Sarahpheinna Woulf and Renee Savai’inaea.
While it had the potential to be a disruptive element, the Steel contingent responded admirably and strived to ensure any changes were quickly adapted to. In reality, it forced the Tactix to adjust to the constant injection of new personnel.
It was a crucial time for effective leadership and seasoned campaigners Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Shannon Saunders responded with aplomb, leading the charge in all facets of their game play and inspiring those around them to step up to the challenge.
“We knew the rotations were always going to be a part of it. We had pretty much the whole team on limited load. It was a real juggling act for the coaches trying to figure out who can plan when and just trying to read the game and adjust as we need,” Saunders told Sky Sport.
“On attack we knew we really had to treasure the possession and we just didn’t do that at crucial times.”
Saunders was pleased to see the franchise’s fringe players step into the fold.
“I think that’s probably the theme of the season … people getting exposed really early and that’s a great thing for us in the long term. They will relish the experience and I think they all did a brilliant job coming on and were fantastic when they did get the opportunity.”
Tactix captain Kimiora Poi was proud of her team’s performance, finally winning all four quarters for the first time in 85 matches.
With both teams having played just six games in the current campaign and a heavy workload of catch-up games to look forward to in the back half of the season, the pair were keen to resurrect their seasons.
In must-win territory, the result reignited the Tactix campaign as they moved off the bottom of the table while the Steel, who competed gamely until the end, have some leeway in their favour after an encouraging start to the season.
Down on personnel, the Steel were gradually ground down the longer the match progressed, relying on the need to make changes on a regular basis while the Tactix completed the match making just the two changes in the dying minutes, the home side using all 12 players at their disposal.
Coming in on the back of three losses, the Tactix, consigned to postponed games for 10 days, had ample time to prepare on the training court and the luxury of being at full-strength.
In a free-flowing and entertaining opening stanza, both teams played with length and enterprise in their transitional play, each set of shooters benefitting from a decent number of opportunities while providing the polish under the hoop.
Through goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit, the Tactix made good use of the long feed with the tall figure of shooter Ellie Bird perfectly positioned to take the shot.
The Steel were unfazed by the newcomers in their line-up, twice forging three-goal leads before the Tactix reeled them into take a tenuous 15-14 lead at the first break.
Picking up their intensity, the visitors made several concerted dabs in the second stanza, building five-goal leads twice through the menacing defensive efforts of Karin Burger and Kelera Nawai-Caucau but were unable to completely shake the plucky home side.
With a constantly changing roster, the Steel refused to let their opponents dictate, the accuracy and ability of prolific shooter George Fisher pairing well with talented young off-sider Saviour Tui while captain Shannon Saunders was the tireless workhorse through the middle.
Selby-Rickit and captain Kimiora Poi were the conductors on attack for the Tactix, who kept their noses in front when leading 31-27 at the main break.
With the Steel unable to capitalise on their turnovers in the opening exchanges, the Tactix applied the squeeze to make their move in a productive third stanza.
Their status as the more settled team gradually paid dividends for the visitors as the Steel, relying on the continued use of rolling substitutes and having to dig deep into their well of player depth, took its toll on the home side.
The Steel had their moments with crafty defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit showing her guile but with the energy and high work rate of defender Burger providing the impetus, and with plenty of ball getting into the hands of Selby-Rickit and Bird, the Tactix built into a game -winning 49-40 lead at the last turn.
Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 33/36 (92%)
Saviour Tui 11/14 (79%)
Georgia Heffernan 8/10 (80%)
Shooting Stats - Tactix:
Ellie Bird 49/53 (93%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 14/20 (70%)
MVP: Kelera Nawai-Caucau (Tactix)