Steel v Magic - 5 July 2021
Crucial to its quest for a spot in the ANZ Premiership finals, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel secured a narrow 56-54 victory over the Splice Construction Magic in Hamilton.
It was a grueling encounter with both teams slugging it out from the opening stages, the Magic proving a relentless opponent on home turf. Taking into consideration the hefty 15-goal margin when the two teams met just a week ago, it was an impressive turnaround, spearheaded by the defensive efforts of Erena Mikaere.
Magic threatened to sneak within one as the clock ran down before a trademark intercept from Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit bolstered the odds in Steel’s favour.
Another stellar effort in the midcourt earned Steel captain Shannon Saunders Player of the Match honours.
“It was a really tight game. We knew coming into it that they’re a really niggly side and they just weren’t going to go away so we knew it was going to be a grind and that’s exactly what it was,” she told Sky Sport.
“When we get a lead, we just have to push on a bit more. We’re a bit inconsistent in our ability to do that.”
Steel goal attack Tiana Metuarau was satisfied the team adjusted smoothly to changes introduced.
“It’s nice to see that the changes can be seamless and it’s nice to see that anyone who comes on makes an impact and there is still a little bit of fluidity throughout the court. But even in the dying minutes there are a few things that we need to polish up on but happy with the win,” she said.
“It was a tough contest but I think we were guilty of really uncharacteristic errors, myself as well. There was also a bit of a disconnect in our goal third so we need to go back and just have a look at a few of those things.”
Magic captain Sam Winders commended her team’s efforts.
“We can’t expect the world in a week and I think the turnaround that we’ve shown tonight, we are pretty proud of that. It’s disappointing of course because we were right in that and I think we gave ourselves enough opportunity to get up on the scoreboard,” she said.
“We’ll just keep grinding.”
In the Magic’s last game of the season at Claudelands Arena, the team wanted to score a win for coach Amigene Metcalfe’s final home match in Hamilton.
And although they pushed the third-placed Steel in every quarter, and hit a six-goal streak in the final spell, they couldn’t pull it off, and the Steel’s ability to close the deal under pressure ensured the three points they needed to stay in finals contention.
Before the Magic had time to settle in after the first whistle, the Steel stole a 3-0 lead, with Metuarau and Grace Namara building on their new combination in the shooting circle.
But the Magic rebounded through some excellent in-circle defence from Georgia Tong and Mikaere, who were getting their hands to a wealth of ball. At the other end, Grace Kara was back from injury at wing attack for the Magic and struck up a nice connection with Caitlin Bassett under the post to take the lead for the first time at 7-6.
Both sides, though, were guilty of some sloppy passing and squandering possession, so no team established the upper hand.
A couple of deflections from Mikaere just before the end of the first quarter ensured the Magic had a 12-11 lead at the break.
But the Steel started to settle into a rhythm, with Metuarau showing off her rebounding, shooting and feeding skills in and around the circle.
An intercept from the ever-steady Saunders in the last minute took what was a two-goal lead for the Steel out to four at halftime, 29-25.
The Steel welcomed their import shooter, George Fisher, back to the court after a couple of weeks off with concussion, and she didn’t miss a beat getting her shooting eye in.
While the Magic closed in again, with Mikaere on fire and Bassett’s shooting on-song, the Steel would then draw back out, with their defensive trio of Taneisha Fifita, Selby-Rickit and Renee Savai’inaea putting up an impressive wall.
Selby-Rickit left the court with a niggling achilles just before the third quarter break, replaced by Sarahpheinna Woulf, just as the Steel established their biggest lead at that point – six – and led 43-38 going into the final spell.
But it was the Magic who came back to the court with more hunger, and an outstanding streak of six goals put them back to within one with 10 minutes left. All seven Magic players on court had a hand in the comeback – displaying some of their best netball of the season – but Mikaere was the stand-out in defence.
Fisher, who’d returned to the bench after a quarter, came back to help calm the Steel shooting circle when the difference was still one with five minutes to play (she ended the game with an impressive 17 from 19). And it was an intercept from Selby-Rickit, back in the game, in the final two minutes that secured the win for the Steel.
Official Result and Stats:
Splice Construction Magic: 54
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 56
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Caitlin Bassett 34/35 (97%)
Khiarna Williams 20/23 (87%)
Shooting Stats - Steel:
Grace Namana 24/28 (86%)
George Fisher 17/19 (90%)
Tiana Metuarau 15/20 (75%)
MVP: Shannon Saunders (Steel)