Fisher finesse clinches Steel win - June 6, 2021
A buzzer-beater from English shooting sensation George Fisher clinched the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel a vital 59-58 victory over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Dunedin.
In a game which delivered its fair share of drama, it was the home side which held its nerve under enormous pressure from a gallant Magic side.
In the process, the young Steel team secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season while the Magic, who have not won since Round 1, gained a well-deserved bonus point.
Magic scorched out of the blocks to notch up an opening flurry of goals but it was a short-lived edge as the Southerners set the tempo for the remainder of the stanza.
Captain Shannon Saunders was sublime marshaling both the attack and defensive efforts, enabling those around her to dominate in their respective roles.
Steel’s intensity in all facets of play had a powerful impact and allowed the team to execute some dynamic passages of play in the opening half.
Former Silver Ferns defenders Temalisi Fakahokotau and Erena Mikaere unleashed a torrid physical approach from the outset but quickly earned the wrath of match officials. As Magic racked up a substantial penalty count, the umpires called a halt to proceedings to issue a stern warning to both captains to reign it in.
The second half proved to be a more evenly-matched affair as Magic utilised its full arsenal of players.
Leading by as much as six during the run to the finish line, the Steel were forced to dig deep as the plucky Magic refused to go away, levelling the scores with 53 seconds left on the clock in a contest dominated by umpire involvement.
It all came down to a humdinger from Fisher to snatch a crucial win and send the vocal home crowd into the frenzy.
The closeness of the match-up and Magic’s resurgent second half ensured an exciting spectacle from start to finish.
There were no surprises in a settled Steel starting line-up while the Magic continued to tinker with their options.
Chiara Semple got the nod as the starting goal attack for the visitors with Grace Kara returning to her more familiar wing attack role before a last quarter cameo under the hoop against the Steel had its rewards.
Magic made the perfect start, scoring the first three goals while finding an easy passage to import shooter Caitlin Bassett. The Steel had to show more patience, happy to work the ball around before the openings appeared but things quickly changed.
Continuing her fine season, Saunders was an influential presence with her pin-point passes into the circle while the combined defensive hustle of the team helped the home side secure a string of five straight goals as they took over the lead.
On the back of a growing confidence, the Steel scored freely in a strong run to the first break, the Magic falling away and left trailing 17-12.
Clicking from the start of the season, home side shooters, Fisher and Tiana Metuarau lifted the tempo on the resumption, import Fisher providing the high-quality finishing while Metuarau weaved her magic in setting up play.
Calm and composed, the Steel showed few chinks, the tight defensive work of in-circle defenders Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita, ably backed up on the outside by Kate Heffernan and Renee Savai’inaea, as the quartet combined expertly to make life a challenge for the Magic attackers.
Magic defenders Mikaere and Fakahokotau had their moments, but the finesse of the Steel shooters ensured the home side enjoyed a 33-26 lead at the main break.
Scoring the first five goals while keeping the Steel scoreless for nearly four minutes, the Magic couldn’t have asked for a better start to an eventful third stanza. With imposing defender Fakahokotau successfully picking off turnover ball, the home side’s shooters went through a shaky patch.
With the teams going goal-for-goal, the Steel clung to a tenuous two-goal lead. Georgia Tong replaced Fakahokotau but didn’t last long, an accidental head knock forcing her off court and the Magic having to rearrange their defence line.
With Semple adding great support for Bassett under the hoop, and missing just one of her 20 shots, the Magic were poised to pounce but it was the Steel who finished the stronger, pushing out to a 46-42 lead at the last break, leaving the game in the balance.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 59
Splice Construction Magic: 58
Champion Data Match Centre
Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 50/54 (93%)
Tiana Metuarau 9/10 (90%)
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Caitlin Bassett 39/41 (95%)
Chiara Semple 19/20 (95%)
MVP: George Fisher (Steel)