IN one of the tightest ANZ Premiership games of the season, Southern Steel were finally able to shake off a determined Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic by two goals last night. The teams were dead even at each of the first three breaks, having scored 14, 26 and 38 goals respectively, and even no more than two goals separated the sides at any point during the last quarter. But, three of the last four goals going the way of George Fisher dragged the Steel over the line, and earned the English shooter Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours in the 51-49 triumph.
WBOP MAGIC 14 | 12 | 12 | 11 (49)
SOUTHERN STEEL 14 | 12 | 12 | 13 (51)
The frantic finish was one thing, but it looked like it may not end as a thriller, with the higher ranked Steel pulling away by six goals with five minutes on the clock in the third term. At that point, Saviour Tui scored to make the Steel lead 38-32, with her and Fisher shooting 12 from 12 in the term, whilst Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio combined for six of eight. It took for a Mes special for the Magic to catch up, piling on the next four goals, and eventually a couple of late ones to Ekenasio made it six consecutive goals to end the term and draw level again. Both Simmon Wilbore and Shannon Saunders had controlled the goal assists, with six apiece, whilst Erena Mikaere was doing well in goal keeper with a couple of intercepts.
Whilst the Magic opted not to make any changes for the final term, the Steel chose to mix it up heading into the last, with Georgia Heffernan replacing Tui, and Kate Burley coming in at goal defence for Sarahpheinna Woulf, reversing the swap they had done late in the third term which had not worked in their favour. Instead, the final quarter saw the Steel go out to as much as a two-goal lead off the back of Fisher and Heffernan’s shooting, holding a 47-45 advantage with five and a half minute remaining.
Ekenasio shot back-to-back goals and Mes chipped in with one to grab the lead, and then Ekenasio scored another to be 49-48 up with 2:46 left in the match. From that point though, it would be the Steel with Fisher scoring back-to-back goals to give the Steel a one-goal advantage, and then a critical miss from Mes resulted in the Steel maintaining possession and getting it to Fisher for a buzzer-beating goal to seal the 51-49 win.
Fisher finished with an impressive 33 goals from 36 attempts, even picking up an intercept and giving off three goal assists in an MVP performance. Heffernan and Tui both scored nine goals from 12 attempts, as Saunders (22 goal assists) and the defensive pairing of Burley and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit tried hard. Ekenasio (27 goals from 32 attempts) and Mes (22 from 33) tried hard though were inaccurate, taking five more shots than their opposing shooters. Samantha Winders (19 goal assists) top that statistic for the Magic, while Mikaere picked up two intercepts and only had eight penalties though was beaten by Fisher overall.
Southern Steel takes on Central Pulse on Saturday afternoon, whilst the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic face the Steel again on Sunday with the extra break.