Steel overrun shaky Magic

IT was a consistent performance from the Southern Steel as they continued to mount pressure on the leading ANZ Premiership teams, piling on a huge 35-21 first half effort before retaining control in the closer second half. Once again the Magic worked hard to rein in their opposition after half time, however the early deficit was just too much for the side to reel in as they eventually went down by 15 goals, 65-50.

With Steel sharpshooter George Fisher out with injury, the Magic appeared to come into the match with a little too much confidence but struggled from the get-go as Grace Namana wreaked havoc with assistance from the ever-reliable Tiana Metuarau and excellent bullet-like passes from Kate HeffernanTe Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita were also quick to assert themselves on their opposition, with the physical duo making it hard for Chiara Semple and Caitlin Bassett, with the latter in particular struggling with the extra attention and failing to find the necessary amount of ball within the circle. With Grace Kara still missing from the side it was Tori Kolose who pulled on the wing attack bib once more, however she was well-covered by Renee Savai’inaea and Heffernan who worked in overdrive to shut down options outside the goal circle and allow Selby-Rickit and Fifita to pounce on the loose ball. Whilst the Magic managed to gain a bit of control in the last five minutes of the term, inaccuracy was an issue credit to the defensive work-rate of the Steel as Selby-Rickit and Fifita nabbed two gains apiece. The Steel carried a solid seven-goal lead into the first change, brimming with confidence as Namana (12 goals) and Metuarau (four) worked hard to retain momentum.

Two five-goal runs from the Steel told the story of the second quarter, as Metuarau and Namana continued to fire seamlessly, as though the two had taken the court together all season. A remarkable 100 per cent accuracy and little issue coming up against the likes of returnee Temalisi Fakahokotau and Erena Mikaere allowed the Steel to control the airways up and down the court, as they quickly stretched out a commanding lead. Three gains from Fifita showcased the side’s rapidly improving confidence, as Khiarna Williams and Semple converted well but struggled to find easy access to feeds, with Kolose, Sam Winders and Katie Te Ao all struggling to find circle edge. Heffernan continued to wreak havoc in both attack and defence, matching Winders for speed and endurance, while in the Steel front-end it was Shannon Saunders who piled on the offensive pressure, using her vision to propel ball into the waiting hands of Metuarau and Namana, who shot true at 100 per cent apiece in the second. With a 14-goal lead heading into the second half, there was no doubt it was the Steel who had the upper hand.

A much tighter second half saw the Magic step up across the court, tightening up defensively as Georgia Tong entered the fray in place of Fakahokotau, while Semple and Williams continued to work well in tandem before Bassett returned to the court in place of Semple midway through the term, and appeared to have a real fire in her. Bassett and her feeders in Winders and Te Ao used Bassett’s and Williams’ height much better to evade the long arms and aerial leap of Fifita, while Sarahpheinna Woulf worked in overdrive to shut down the goalline drives. Metuarau and Namana’s flow was slightly impacted by the improved defensive workrate outside the circle from the Magic, as Fowler smothered Saunders’ impact and Winders turned her hunting ability around onto Heffernan. A 15-14 quarter from the Magic was not enough though, as the Steel still had a solid advantage heading into the final term with a 13-goal lead.

Neither side had the momentum heading into the final term, however it was the Steel that stole it away from under the Magic’s nose each time they had a chance, as they romped home with a 16-4 final quarter. Once more it was the smothering defensive pressure that made it hard for the Magic to convert, shooting at 100 per cent accuracy but lacking the volume of ball into the circle. Savai’inaea was a workhorse with two intercepts for the term as Namana and Metuarau continued to put ball to post with ease, while Kiana Pelasio entered the fray in goal attack such was the side’s control in the last five minutes. Saunders’ work rate continued to be centre of attention, while Winders and Williams continued to find Bassett, but it was too little, too late for the Magic who had once again been overrun with their slow start, eventually going down by 15 goals.

Fifita (seven gains, two intercepts) fired on all cylinders despite her 11 penalties (10 contacts), while Woulf (three gains, 12 penalties) and Savai’inaea (two intercepts, eight contacts) both asserted themselves on the contest. Saunders topped the assists count with 20, narrowing followed by Heffernan with 19 and Metuarau with 18 to go with 30 goals from her 31 attempts. Namana’s 34 goals from 37 also proved crucial, in a new-found shared role between the two goalers. For the Magic, Winders’ 17 assists and intercept were handy, as Fowler, Fakahokotau and Tong all registered two gains apiece. Bassett topscored for the side finishing with 21 goals from 22 attempts during her 36 minutes on court, while Williams (18 from 20) and Semple (11 from 16) worked hard to convert.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments