Blistering second quarter gifts Mainland Tactix a grand final berth

A BLISTERING second quarter from Mainland Tactix all but gifted them a win against the Southern Steel running out five goal victors 54-49 in the ANZ Premiership elimination final. After an even start the Tactix managed to put the foot down in the second and withstood the pressure that was thrown at them in the second half to claim the win and make it back-to-back grand final appearances.

It was an error-ridden start to the game with both sides proving a bit shaky as the Tactix coughed up possession on their centre pass credit to the hustle of Tiana Metuarau who came steaming through for a deflection. With a grand final spot on the line, the young and inexperienced Steel side were eager to have a good start. Metuarau missed her first shot of the game with George Fisher there to mop things up and post the first score of the elimination final. It did not take long for the Tactix to answer as Te Paea Selby-Rickit injected herself into the thick of things to level the margin. Moments later Ellie Bird found herself under the post and the Tactix were up by a goal, signalling the tit-for-tat style of game that would ensue. The Steel got a run on, nailing three goals in a row, converting off the Tactix centre pass and swinging momentum back in their favour as Fisher imposed herself under the post and Metuarau’s playmaking came to the fore. This goal for goal rhythm continued for much of the quarter with neither side able to break away and assert themselves on the contest given the high level of intensity.

With the Steel up by two goals it was time for the Tactix to pull something out of the hat and hit back as Samon Nathan impressed with her class around circle edge. The wing attack dug into her bag of tricks to evade Renee Savai’inaea and feed into Bird. It was quite laboured in attack for the Tactix with only one player leading towards the ball and allowing the Steel to monopolise play with their physical nature under the post. A couple of missed shots from Selby-Rickit saw possession switch hands but neither side was able to capitalise on their opportunities. Bird was proving to be the go-to shooter for the Tactix as she continued to hold strong and keep Taneisha Fifita at bay as the visitors stole the lead back. There was no easy pass across the court with everything contested but it was the Tactix that went into quarter time up by two goals.

The second quarter started with a bang as Selby-Rickit pushed out the margin to three goals. Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley combined nicely around circle edge to employ some strong hands over pressure and create turnovers aplenty. The ball ping ponged up and down the court with neither side able to settle and convert on their turnover chances. Both goal defenders in Karin Burger and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit were proving to be thorns in their opposition’s side with huge rebounds. Youngster Kate Heffernan was in fine form for the Steel with the centre bobbing up at the right place at the right time. The Steel managed their first goal of the term with a tick over five minutes played. Back to back goals got the home side within just two goals before Burger once again whipped out the party tricks to reel in an intercept. The Steel smothered every single attacking move of the Tactix but they still managed to find a way forward and extend their lead back out to five goals.

The Tactix really started to put their foot down as Jane Watson and Burger combined down back to clog up the space and force the Steel to pass the ball around, with Shannon Saunders struggling to find circle edge credit to the workrate of Elley. The blistering speed of the Tactix was catching the Steel off guard as they opened up a whopping 10-goal lead. Sarahpheinna Woulf was injected into the action with less than four minutes left to play but that did not seem to faze the Tactix as they slotted eight goals in a row to really stamp their authority on the game.

After a disappointing second term the Steel came out with a head full of steam. Fifita upped the ante down in defence contesting the hands of Bird while Heffernan found her groove in attack to release the ball with confidence into Fisher. The combination of Watson and Burger was in full swing as the pair made life hard for Metuarau and Fisher inside the ring. Things started to fall the way of the Steel as they went on a four-goal run and the Tactix struggled to play with their usual level of composure and speed. But every time the Steel got any form of momentum it was Burger that found a way to win ball back and provide a chance for her side to keep their noses in front.

There were errors aplenty midway through the quarter with tired bodies out on court starting to come to the fore. The Steel rallied and had a real aura of confidence around them as they reduced the margin to seven goals. With the crowd behind them the Steel contested every pass and making the Tactix work in overdrive in attack as Fifita’s athleticism started to become a problem.

With the game on the line, Woulf re-entered the contest out in goal defence while Te Huinga Selby-Rickit pushed back into goal keeper. Both sides looked settle in attack and defence as they went goal for goal before the Steel slotted three goals in a row to inch back within six goals. This never-say-die attitude was infectious as the Steel mounted a wealth of pressure in defence and remained, cool, calm and collected in attack to reduce the deficit to just four goals. But the Tactix were not about give up the lead and a chance for back-to-back grand finals as they rode the wave and secured the win.

Both goal shooters had identical shooting performances as Fisher and Bird finished with 39 goals from 41 attempts at 95 per cent. The main difference came down to the workload of the goal attack with Selby-Rickit slotting 15 from 20 along with 10 goal assists for the Tactix while Metuarau managed 10 from 13 and 19 goal assists. The workrate out the front from Nathan was impressive racking up 24 goal assists and an intercept as Saunders led the charge for the Steel with 13. Defensively Burger had a field day amassing four intercepts, five deflections and two gains as Fifita recorded two gains in the loss.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments