Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Trident Homes Tactix – April 9, 2023
There’s no denying the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel are determined to rewrite the plot of their 2023 season. Unfortunately, the latest chapter was an all too familiar read – beaten 45-58 by the Trident Homes Tactix in Christchurch.
Despite a losing streak which now spans 10 games, the Steel can take heart from delivering a nuggety performance against a challenging opponent.
Staring down the barrel of a 20-goal deficit at one stage, the southerners salvaged the final quarter to end the clash closer than the 17-goal loss endured in the previous encounter against their South Island rivals. That’s progress.
While collectively there were undoubtedly some struggles, individual efforts were deserved of praise – particularly goal attack Georgia Heffernan whose tireless work rate ultimately lessened the blow on the scoreboard and goal keep Kate Burley who managed to regularly foil the Tactix momentum.
The home side controlled the narrative from the outset with the formidable defensive pairing of Jane Watson and Karin Burger dominating proceedings with a masterclass in defensive prowess, their knack for sublime intercepts enthralling to witness.
Steel captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit told Sky Sport she was proud of her team’s strong finish.
“We’re always happy to win a quarter but we need to start doing that at the beginning so we give ourselves a chance … we need to be more consistent,” she said.
“We just need to do what we practice. Sometimes we practice stuff really well and we come to the game and as soon as there’s a hard d we kind of go away from it and go back into automatic mode. Just looking at those moments in the game where we unintentionally change the momentum, we need to know how to get that momentum back.
“We love hanging out, we love training together and playing together so we’re trying to find that chemistry on the court. We do in patches but when we don’t, we really don’t and we can lose probably seven goals in a row so it’s those kinds of errors we need to get out of our game.
“We will look at how we can be better from this game and apply it to our next one.”
Coach Reinga Bloxham, who celebrated her 100th game at the helm, was focusing on the positives.
“We’ve got to take those little wins away with us and try and build on it for next week,” she told Sky Sport.
“For the first half of the game we did some really good stuff, but in the third quarter I think we probably let ourselves down a little bit. They just had a couple of runs on us where we just couldn’t quite execute our own centre pass or our own passes in the end.
“We have to think about the things we’re doing well rather than the things we’re not doing well. We just have to try and string those together for a longer period of time.”
“We just have to do our best to stay in the fight.”
Defensive standout Watson celebrated her 100th game in the red and black dress as the Tactix moved into second place on the ANZ Premiership standings with the comprehensive win.
Watson’s menacing defence restricted the scoring opportunities of the Steel, while at the other end of the court, prolific Tactix goal shooter Aliyah Dunn shot her second perfect game of the 2023 season with 40 goals from as many attempts.
Capitalising on some ferocious defensive work, the home side held the visitors to just nine goals in the second and third stanzas.
Watson claimed four gains and two intercepts for the match, with Burger not to be outdone with five gains and four intercepts of her own.
Dunn combined seamlessly with energetic wing attack Kimiora Poi and goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who added 18 goals.
Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek gave England import Laura Malcolm the centre bib, with wing defence Greer Sinclair adding her athletic style.
The Steel’s shooting stocks took another hit this round with shooter Saviour Tui sidelined for the match with an ankle injury, following weeks of restricted play due to a knee injury.
Stepping up in the Steel circle was Heffernan and goal shooter Eseta Autagavaia. Autagavaia played a strong game in Steel colours before she was replaced by Jess Allan who shot accurately and worked hard around the court.
The Steel midcourt continued to prove a strong suit for the southern side. In their defensive circle Selby-Rickit and Burley smoothly moved the ball through to their attack end, with young Steel wing attack Ivari Christie making the most of her time on court.
Christie went to the bench in the second quarter as defender Renee Savai'inaea was given a run at wing attack.
The Tactix jumped out to an early five-goal lead at the first break, before extending the advantage to 10 goals at half-time.
The second half proved to be an opportunity for young Tactix midcourter Parris Petera to show her sublime feeding skills. Petera racked up 13 goal assists. Also getting a chance on court for the Tactix was defender Kate Lloyd at goal keep during the last quarter.
The Steel finished on a high by winning the last quarter by five goals which was some consolation as they search for their first win of the season.
Shooting Stats - Tactix:
Aliyah Dunn 40/40 (100%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 18/23 (78%)
Vika Koloto 0/0 (0%)
Shooting Stats - Steel:
Jess Allan 11/13 (85%)
Georgia Heffernan 24/28 (86%)
Eseta Autagavaia 10/13 (77%)
MVP: Te Paea Selby-Rickit