Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Trident Homes Tactix – April 23, 2023
The official scoresheet will record a 50-31 victory to the Trident Homes Tactix but there’s plenty to be proud of for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel from this afternoon’s ANZ Premiership match in Dunedin.
The southerners unleashed their finest start of the season to win the opening spell and put the Tactix on notice.
Two sublime intercepts apiece to Sam Winders and Georgia Heffernan delivered the bonus possession the Steel has been so desperately seeking in previous encounters and their efforts were matched in intensity by their teammates, hungering after every pass.
The Tactix could be forgiven for thinking there was a Heffernan lurking at every turn – the identical twins notching up an impressive five intercepts between them, while Winders executed a heroic performance at wing defence.
Within striking distance initially, unfortunately it proved too hard to sustain as the Tactix upped the ante with a renewed focus, restricting the Steel to its lowest ever premiership score and outclassing the home side 28 goals to 13 in the second half.
Languishing on the bottom of the championship points ladder significantly adrift of the other teams presents its own challenge – when every opponent is still very much in the hunt for finals contention it translates to a need to win versus a want. And there’s no denying desperation can be a powerful motivator.
Regardless of whatever Steel threw at them, the Tactix were never going to relinquish the upper-hand, spearheaded by its powerhouse defensive pairing of Karin Burger and eventual MVP Jane Watson.
The Tactix would have been happy to pocket the points after grinding out a hard-fought win.
In the low-scoring spectacle, the high-flying Tactix were kept honest by a dogged Steel, inflating the score with a flurry of goals in the latter stages of the final quarter against a tiring home side.
The Tactix never quite found their attacking groove but a 17-7 finishing run, in the end, sealed a comfortable win after absorbing a tenacious first half from the Steel. The home side ultimately ran out of puff against the firepower provided by the Tactix.
In the third instalment of the clash of the south, Renee Savai’inaea, once again got the nod at wing attack while talented young shooter Saviour Tui got the start at goal shoot.
For the Tactix, permanent replacement player Paris Lokotui slotted into wing defence, and up-and-coming youngster Parris Petera was given a rare start at wing attack.
It was an unsettled start by both teams, with each being guilty of multiple soft turnovers. But sniffing opportunities, it was the winless home side who found themselves well in the contest.
The Steel did a fine job of disrupting the flow with Kate Burley, Winders and Georgia Heffernan picking up a run of intercept turnovers. Four goals in a row pushed the home side out to a 9-5 advantage before the Tactix responded, the Steel hanging on to win their first opening quarter of the season 10-9.
Courtney Elliott was injected at goal defence for the Steel on the resumption but with the visitors scoring the first three, the Tactix edged into a narrow lead.
Goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit was an influential presence for the Tactix through her general play and accurate finishing. However, an increasingly confident Steel left no margin for error from the Tactix.
With the lead changing hands six times, the Steel showed plenty of intent, the interplay between shooters Tui and Georgia Heffernan being a feature.
With the Tactix unable to make inroads, changes were made with import Laura Malcolm coming off the bench into centre and Kimiora Poi moving to wing attack.
Finding their flow, the Tactix burst out to a six-goal lead but couldn’t completely shake the dogged Steel who snared nine intercepts to their opponents’ five, the visitors edging to a 22-18 lead at the main break.
Scoring the first three goals of the third stanza put the Tactix in the box seat to take a grip on proceedings. Still not at their best, the growing presence of defensive duo Jane Watson and Karin Burger and the impetus of Poi on attack helped the Tactix increase their lead.
Youngster Ivari Christie (wing attack) and Jess Allan (goal attack) were injected midway through to help resurrect the home side’s fortunes but the Steel could not get enough ball into their shooters’ hands.
With Lokotui suffering a heavy fall, the Tactix were forced to rejig their defensive line, prompting Kate Lloyd to come off the bench to goalkeeper and Watson and Burger moving up to goal and wing defence respectively.
Restricting the Steel to just six goals during the 15-minute term, it was the Tactix who headed into the last turn handily placed when leading 33-24.
Shooting stats - Steel:
Saviour Tui 16/17 (94%)
Georgia Heffernan 13/18 (72%)
Jess Allan 2/3 (67%)
Shooting Stats - Tactix:
Aliyah Dunn 31/32 (97%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 19/22 (86%)
MVP: Jane Watson