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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Trident Homes Tactix - March 20, 2023

Home court advantage did not reap the rewards the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel were seeking, beaten 38-55 by the Trident Homes Tactix at ILT Stadium Southland tonight.

The score line doesn’t accurately reflect the positive progress the Steel made in several facets of the game, particularly the fight shown in the face of adversity. Ultimately, too often the ball just didn’t bounce favourably their way.

On attack, Georgia Heffernan put in a commendable effort and was a reliable influence, while Saviour Tui made her highly-anticipated return to the court from injury. Together with Eseta Autagavaia, the shooting accuracy deserves merit, it was simply the volume of shots which hindered momentum on the scoreboard – the Silver Ferns defensive duo of Jane Watson and Karin Burger stamping their authority from the outset.

An unfortunate pattern is emerging for the Steel with opponents too often slotting goals at a 2:1 ratio.

The Tactix appeared unintimidated by the confines of the Steel fortress – perhaps its trio of ex-Steel players aided their cause – and a comprehensive three-quarter assault ensued.

But it was the Steel who walked off court to the cheers of the crowd - after a final 15 minutes that rates as their best of the season so far.

In their first home game of the season after three losses on the road, the Steel were greeted with a typically loud and loyal crowd in Invercargill. But for the majority of the game, they found very little room to move or be creative, under heavy guard from a clinical Tactix side.

Yet to their credit, the Steel never gave up – and won the final quarter by five, through more confidence and aggression on attack. A lot of that came down to the first appearance of the season for goal shoot Tui, who ended the night with reassuring figures of 14 from 17.

The Tactix were on fire, though, for most of the match, illustrated in their record first half score. And goal defence Burger continued to relish her return to netball from injury - claiming five intercepts and five gains.

The Steel continued to experiment in their shooting circle, with Tui returning from a knee injury for her first minutes of the season. Initial teething problems feeding into the shooting circle became a major headache for the Steel, with the old relationship between Tactix defensive duo Burger and Watson growing in strength with every game.

The Steel were trailing 17-9 at the end of the first quarter and the chasm only widened over the next 15 minutes.

On managed time, Tui went to the bench having shot seven from nine, with Autagavaia taking the goal shoot bib. When she got the ball, Autagavaia was pretty deadly with her shot. The trouble was putting the ball in her hands.

Samantha Winders left the court with an injury early in the second quarter, bringing young attacker Ivari Christie into the game at wing attack. But the Tactix were most concerned with shutting down the Steel’s most effective feeder, centre Kate Heffernan.

On attack, the Tactix quickly settled into a rhythm. Aliyah Dunn expectedly took the lion’s share of shots, but didn’t have the same confidence further away from the hoop (yet she still finished the game with an impressive 39 from 45). Her partner, Te Paea Selby-Rickit was solid and smart – often getting the better of her sister, Te Huinga Reo, in the Steel defence.

Tactix wing defence Greer Sinclair had superb vision on attack, firing the ball through court to Dunn, while Kimiora Poi at wing attack worked tirelessly with her feeds.

By halftime, the Tactix had racked their highest scoring performance in an ANZ Premiership first half, 37 goals to the Steel’s 18.

With Winders back on the court, but at wing defence, and Courtney Elliott joining Kate Burley in the circle defence, the Steel had moments of fluidity through court in the third spell. But they couldn’t build any continuity - other than consistently scoring nine goals in every quarter up until the last stanza, which they entered trailing 49-27.

But it was a heartening final quarter from the Steel, through a new urgency led by the Heffernan twins, which will give them plenty to work on this week. Their feeders were confident to release the ball into Tui – back on court for her second spell – who showed her clever footwork to wriggle free of Watson.

Still there was no denying the Tactix overall domination, as they were able to give vital minutes to bench players Parris Petera and Vika Koloto.

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Saviour Tui 14/17 (82%)
Georgia Heffernan 11/16 (69%)
Eseta Autagavaia 13/15 (87%)

Shooting Stats - Tactix:
Aliyah Dunn 39/45 (87%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 15/18 (83%)
Vika Koloto 1/1 (100%)

MVP: Jane Watson


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