THE top three clash between Southern Steel and Northern Stars well and truly lived up to the hype with the Stars getting the “w” in a hard fought battle. It was even for majority of the game before a blowout final term handed the top side a thrilling 10 goal win.
It did not take long for George Fisher to open the account for the Steel before the Northern Stars hit back moments later. The tempo was set nice and early for the Steel as Tiana Metuarau was proving to be a real playmaker out the front. Her smooth movement and vision into the circle allowed Fisher to control proceedings as the home side skipped out to a handy three goal lead. A win from Anna Harrison allowed the Stars to propel the ball back down the court but Jamie Hume missed a long range shot and the lead extended back out to three goals. The Stars were struggling to find their rhythm in attack with wayward passes costing them while up the other end the Steel were in fine form able to connect with great ease.
Harrison continued to be a menace down in defence for the Stars but Fisher and Metuarua were not fazed working the ball around with great ease to keep the defenders head on a swivel. Shannon Saunders was a real driving force through attack but there was no real easy passage for either side as the ball continued to ebb and flow up and down the court. Maia Wilson could not find her range under the post and although the Stars got back to within one goal the Steel continued to find ways to regain possession and create havoc. With a minute and a half to play the scores were level with a goal for goal rhythm ensuing. It was an incredibly low scoring first quarter with only 19 goals scored for the entire quarter.
Wilson quickly answered the call in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter before Elle Temu showcased her defensive nous with a couple of handy deflections. Her presence and combination with Harrison forced a held ball on Fisher with the Stars hitting the front for the first time in the game. Lisa Mather upped the ante out in wing defence with a deflection as the Stars defensive unit as a whole increased their workload. There was turnover ball aplenty but the Stars still managed to hold on turning their two goal buffer into four. Wilson was finding more room inside the circle up against Taneisha Fifita and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit to have an impact in attack.
Harrison and Temu were making life incredibly hard down back for the Steel winning ball back time and time again. Sarahpheinna Woulf entered the fray in goal defence shutting down the play of Hume and forcing Wilson to do the heavy lifting. A run of three goals in the final couple of minutes of the quarter was exactly what the Steel needed to get themselves back into the game reducing the margin to three goals. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was having a commanding presence through the midcourt and around circle edge to feed the ball into the circle with relative ease as the Stars went into half time up by four goals.
An early turnover from the Steel gifted the ball back into the hands of the Stars and while Wilson missed the first shot she made no mistake on the second to steadily extend the lead. Gina Crampton plied her trade around circle edge with her silky footwork but Selby-Rickit showcased her class to pick up an intercept of her own. It was laboured in transition for the Steel who struggled to bring the ball down the court but once they got it inside the ring Fisher made no mistake. Kate Heffernan made full advantage of her long limbs and provided that spark that the Steel needed with a huge intercept as they mounted a strong comeback to get back within two. The combination of Hume and Wallace steadied the ship for the Stars once again but the Steel were not about to back down.
Fifita sprang into action with a huge rebound and sent the ball spiralling down court and Fisher rewarded her for her efforts. The lead changed once again as the Steel hit the front with five minutes on the clock. With that in mind the Stars looked to the bench as Amorangi Malesala entered the fray out in goal attack. but costly passes inside the circle allowed Renee Savai’inaea to win ball back. It was goal for goal for much of the quarter with neither side able to pull away as Woulf re-entered the contest. Three goals in a row for the Stars allowed them to sneak ahead. A nasty head knock forced Fisher to the bench prompting Kiana Pelasio to pull on the goal attack bib while Temu also left the court after the collision as Oceane Maihi came on.
Only two goals split the two sides at the final break and with the game on the line it was the Stars that came out with a pep in their step. Wilson upped the ante as Malesala also worked herself into the game for the Stars. Within a blink of an eye the lead ballooned out to nine goals as the Steel struggled to find their way to post without Fisher despite the best efforts of Metuarau down back. The ball was falling the Stars way and youngster Greer Sinclair made her way onto the court for the Stars in wing defence as they ran out 10 goal victors.
Fisher was a constant threat down at the post finishing with 22 goals to her name at a lowly 69 per cent. Metuarau was silky out the front amassing 14 goal assists and 19 goals while Saunders also plied her trade racking up 12 goal assists. Defensively Fifita showcased her aerial capacity with two gains. for the Stars Wilson was up and about piling on 38 goals from 41 attempts as Hume also showed her range sinking 13 goals. Crampton was at her damaging best around circle edge collecting 21 goal assists while the defensive ball winning trio of Maihi, Harrison and Temu all combined for 20 gains with Harrison having a game to remember with four intercepts and 10 deflections of her own.