Tag: Gina Crampton

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Mighty finish seals the deal for Stars

NORTHERN Stars have capitalised against a determined but understrength Southern Steel team that had to shuffle the magnets in the wake of key shooter, Jennifer O’Connell‘s injury. Despite the Steel coming close and giving the Stars a scare, the fourth quarter again proved to be the Steel’s downfall. The Stars, on the other hand, looked composed, fluent in attack, dogged in defense and are showing great form in Round 5, eventually getting the points in a 48-39 victory.

The Stars opened the game with determination and seemed to relish the opportunity to get their revenge for their Round 3 loss. Steel were working with a new shooting partnership of Kalifa McCollin at goal shooter and the youngster Kiana Pelasio getting the start at goal attack. This combination took a while to settle in which heaped pressure on Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton to dictate play and keep creating opportunities. There was hesitance in the Steel’s attacking end, and Storm Purvis and the Stars punished the Steel’s nervous start by getting out to an early lead. The contrast between the shooting partnerships was clear: Stars were well oiled, presenting holding and moving options, and Maia Wilson was backing herself at the post. A timely surge from the Steel midcourt towards the end of the first quarter brought the score back to within one, and the Stars kept a narrow lead of 12-11 going into the break. 

Both teams started the second quarter with intensity, and there was a sense that the game was very much up for grabs. A fierce battle was developing between plucky Georgia Heffernan and Stars’ captain Grace Kara, who was having to work hard to shake the tenacious wing defence. Miscommunication hampered the Steel’s attacking efforts and the Stars made no mistake at the post. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita were struggling to have an impact against dominant Wilson, supported by Jamie Hume. As the score crept out to 19-15, there was a sense that the game may start to unravel for Steel. A textbook interception from Kate Burley was answered by a gain from Selby-Rickit and the defence for both teams started to make their presence felt. Coming in at goal keeper for Steel Oceane Maihi had an immediate impact, allowing Purvis to roam and create more turnover ball at goal defense. With seconds remaining, the Steel failed to convert an attacking opportunity and went into half-time trailing by four goals. 

After the break, Abby Erwood came into goal defense for Steel with Selby-Rickit slotting into goal keeper, in an attempt to shut down the threat of Wilson who was shooting at 95 per cent. Maihi picked off a poor feed from Crampton and the Stars extended their lead. Steel were still struggling to find their timing in attack, and the midcourt were being effectively held up by Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Fa’amu Ioane playing at full strength. A change was inevitable for the Steel, resulting in McCollin switching out to goal attack (where she is most comfortable) and Grace Namana making her ANZ debut. As the third quarter progressed, both teams took things up a gear, and it started to get interesting. Steel clawed their way back in and narrowed the gap to just two goals at three quarter time. They were not about to let this game go without a fight.

Unfortunately Steel could not sustain this momentum in the final quarter. In a striking parallel to the previous game against the Pulse, errors in the fourth quarter proved to be the Steel’s downfall. Erwood had a standout quarter at goal defense, and although the partnership between McCollin and Namara was blossoming, it will need a little more time to click. The Steel fought tirelessly to cling on to the scoreline but the impressive hops and dynamism of the Stars defense end proved too much. Reuelu-Buchanan and Iowane were relentless, exploiting the Steel mistakes and really pushing for the win. After a ruthless final quarter, the Stars proved their worth in the competition and ended the game 48-39. 

Following an emotional and tiring few games for the Steel, they will be glad of a rest and chance to rebuild. Both teams will take a lot away from this game, and can be proud of the low overall turnover rate – 11 and 10 for Steel and Stars respectively – combined with impressive shooting stats from Wilson and McCollin in particular. Stars are certainly on the rise and will go into their next game against Magic with heaps of confidence following this strong performance.

>>>STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>>STARS TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 9 | 11 | 8 (39)
NORTHERN STARS 12 | 12 | 9 | 15 (48)

STARTING SEVEN:

Southern Steel:

GS: Kalifa McCollin
GA: Kiana Pelasio
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

Northern Stars:

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Lisa Mather
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis

 

ANZ Premiership – Round 5: Pulse survive nailbiter against error-ridden Steel

SOUTHERN Steel pushed the Central Pulse in Round 4 of the ANZ Premiership, and while they backed it up a week on, the Pulse treasured ball and maintained accuracy for a close 40-37 victory. It was the Pulse’s continuous drive that propelled them to a sixth straight victory, with the close finish for the Steel soured by a late injury.

Pulse started strong as ever, pinning down the attacking third well in the beginning to limit Steel’s speed in attack. A couple handy loose ball-gets early on saw the Steel take an early three goal lead, before Pulse switched into once more to steal back some momentum. But the midpoint of the term saw the Pulse draw level, with the side slow to start but quicker to get into their regular rhythm. 

A couple of pickups from Shannon Saunders early proved that the Steel had come to play, putting pressure on through the midcourt but where Saunders did it the entire Pulse side went one better on the defence, forcing Steel into short, sharp passes in attack. While the Steel maintained patience and did not try to take risks, Trinidad and Tobago product Kalifa McCollin still injected her usual flair, finding clever avenues to Jennifer O’Connell at the post. 

But where the Steel were solid up forward, sloppiness down back from Taneisha Fifita allowed too many easy attempts at goal for the highly accurate Pulse goalers in Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn. Defensively, the Steel were on fire early putting a wealth of pressure on the Pulse attack unit but threw away just as much as they gained, only coming away with a one goal lead at the first change.

The match continued virtually goal for goal, with Maddy Gordon finding plenty of purchase on circle edge, but small errors back-to-back from Dunn handed the Steel a couple of crucial opportunities. However, inaccuracy plagued O’Connell and McCollin, sitting on 65 per cent accuracy in the second thanks to impressive defensive pressure and box-outs from Katrina Rore and Kelly Jury. While Steel appeared to have much of the momentum early, critical errors saw Pulse take the lead with under five minutes left in the term, seeing Steel in real danger of fazing out of the match heading into half-time. 

While the patient approach by the Steel early on seemed to work, pressure from the Pulse saw movement stagnate in the second which allowed the top side to gain some precious ball. Though Saunders continued to have her way finding plenty of turnover ball through the centre, matched well by Claire Kersten who gave Saunders a run for her money on the deflection tally. But the Steel managed to retain a two-goal buffer throughout a frantic last minute, seeing Pulse just ahead but the Steel within touching distance. With persistent contact calls plaguing Fifita, the young goal keeper was handed a caution late in the second, having tallied eight contact penalties by half-time. 

With just two goals in it coming into the second half, one side had to give. The Steel injected some better speed in the third, finding faster options to post but wasted opportunities from McCollin and O’Connell saw Pulse maintain the lead, with Jury getting into O’Connell’s head. It was a better third quarter from the Pulse, finding a bit more purchase in attack though the Steel continued to keep them on their toes and forcing some uncharacteristic errors from the usually composed attack. 

Kate Heffernan was solid, applying constant pressure on Gordon and seeing the pair almost cancel each other out with their consistent shadowing. McCollin’s speed saw the goal attack continue to evade Rore, though the Pulse defensive unit did a solid job limiting Steel’s ability to drive toward the ball in attack. The Pulse began to pull away toward the end of the third, maintaining momentum and holding ground against the tenacious and ball hungry Steel side.

Tiana Metuarau joined the fray out in wing attack to start the final quarter, with the speedster injecting a bit of flair into the Pulse attack. Continued errors and hesitance in front of goal from the Steel saw the Pulse begin to pull away, with accuracy on the shot proving crucial. Where the match may have seemed sealed up early in the final quarter, the Steel had a much more composed second half of the term and really began to push back, absorbing the pressure in attack and winning back critical ball in defence before the ball could reach the circle. 

With the match on the line, the Steel were on a roll and looked to be in with a real chance, until the worst case scenario played out with O’Connell going down with a suspected knee injury and less than a minute on the clock. Two goals down with 55 seconds on the clock Steel’s Kiana Pelasio entered the court in goal attack, but it was not enough with the Pulse happy to ferret away the time and finish with a sombre 40-37 victory.

The Pulse may have had another scare with a potential loss on their hands this week but were too good with quality names bookending the court. Player of the match Jury was silent but deadly in defence, racking up seven gains while Kersten was solid with three intercepts. Despite just playing the three quarters, Gordon led the Pulse assists tally with 13 from 17 feeds, joined by Ekenasio with nine assists and 17 goals from 20 attempts. Dunn finished well with 23 goals at 92 per cent to lead on accuracy. Rore had a quiet match when it came to her usual flair, but was consistent as ever with the four gains and only five penalties to her name.

While the Steel had more attempts on goal for the second match running, it was their inaccuracy at the post that was the real kicker. O’Connell was sturdy at the post but came away with 25 goals at 73 per cent, while McCollin was electric out the front with 12 goals from 17 attempts and eight assists. Saunders racked up three intercepts, while Gina Crampton did much of the heavy lifting in wing attack with 15 assists, 19 centre pass receives and a potentially game saving intercept in the final term to really put the pressure on. Defensively, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Fifita were consistent but did not do enough to put off the Pulse, seeing the pair only combine for two intercepts. 

Steel are unlucky coming out of this loss and injury scare with a back-to-back match on Saturday night against Northern Stars – the only team they have beaten thus far – and will now need to work a different goaler into their game plan. Meanwhile the Pulse have a week off, not back on the court until Round 6.

>>> PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 11 | 11 | 11 | 7 (40)
SOUTHERN STEEL 12 | 8 | 9 | 8 (37)

STARTING SEVEN:

PULSE:

GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

2020 ANZ Premiership preview: Round 5

ROUND 5 of the ANZ Premiership sees five matches over the course of the weekend with the Magic, Stars and Tactix all taking the court twice. There are a couple of identical clashes from Round 4 with some teams hoping history does not repeat itself. The Pulse will be eager to maintain their unblemished start to 2020 while the Magic will be wanting to go one step better than last round and collect their second win to climb up the ladder.

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Friday, 10 July

A fourth quarter demolition gifted Central Pulse the win over the Steel last round, however the Steel will take plenty of confidence out of their last outing, going toe-to-toe with their opponents for three quarters. Shooting at 100 per cent for the match, the Pulse goalers were on song sinking them from everywhere – something the Steel will really have to double down on this round if they are any chance to knock the Pulse off their perch.

It is fair to say that the battle in the goal circle was won by Ameliaranne Ekenasio with the star goal attack taking ownership and dominating with 25 goals from 25 attempts. Last round, Steel defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita gave all their attention to Aliyah Dunn under the post and while the towering goal shooter was down on her usual volume sitting at 21 goals at 100 per cent, it allowed for Ekenasio to dictate the terms out the front. Fifita and Selby-Rickit are both strong prospects in the defensive circle with their physicality, hands over pressure and quick footwork but Abby Erwood should not be forgotten about and could be another option to come on for the Steel and upset the Pulse attacking duo with her tagging style of play. Heading into their second clash in less than seven days the Steel will be keen to rectify those issues in defence and shut down Ekenasio more effectively if they are to come out on top. While the combination between Ekenasio and Dunn is commanding to say the least youngster Tiana Metuarau is also proving to be a handful for the opposition whether it be in goal attack or wing attach with her silky movement, precise ball placement and netball nous.

Defensively the Pulse are stacked with Kelly Jury having the time of her life down back. The goal keeper has starred in recent weeks with her hunt for the ball, long arms and skill to contest the aerial ball. She really shut down Jennifer O’Connell in Round 4 with the goal shooter only managing 27 goals from 32 attempts at 84 per cent and denied any easy access into the goal circle. The influence of Katrina Rore and Karin Burger is also a key aspect to the Pulse defence with Rore putting in a wealth of work out the front to shut down the goal attack entering the goal circle and Burger nullifying the wing attack with her with arms over pressure and commanding height. Goal attack Kalifa McCollin will have to get busy for the Steel if she is to occupy Rore while Gina Crampton had Burger’s number for the majority of their last encounter using her speed and strength to tussle for prime position around circle edge.

It could be a case of history repeating itself with the Pulse in ripping form with their impressive ball movement, strong connections and ability to withstand the waves of pressure.

Southern Steel v. Northern Stars
Saturday, 11 July

In their second game of the round the Steel will be hoping to keep the winning streak against the Stars alive, getting the wood over them earlier in the season, albeit by just two goals. Both teams are evenly poised and match-up similarly headlined by a tall holding goal shooter and experienced midcourt.

The contest between the Northern Stars captain, Grace Kara and youngster Kate Heffernan will draw plenty of attention. Kara is a real lynchpin for the Stars in attack, providing that link into the goal circle with her effortless and perfectly weighted passes. She also does a wealth of work at the centre pass to ease the pressure on her shooters, meaning it will up to Heffernan to get in her head and stop her. Although still developing her craft, Heffernan is quick on her feet and can apply strong hands over pressure to block Kara’s vision into the circle. Another option in wing defence for the Stars is Kendall Corkery with the midcourter renowned for her niggly, physical style which can get under the skin of opponents. Expect veteran, Shannon Saunders to lead the midcourt cohort for the Steel especially up against 22-year-old Mila Reuelu-Buchanan. Saunders can run all day in centre and use her smarts to outwit Reuelu-Buchanan who is still honing her craft.

If the Stars are to register another win for the season, Maia Wilson will have to be on her game from the opening whistle. The goal shooter is a commanding presence under the post and has increased her range throughout 2020, looking more comfortable from further out. Her high volume of shots however puts a target on her back with the likes of Fifita, Selby-Rickit and Erwood likely to work in overdrive to smother her, meaning it will be up to Jamie Hume to take the load off Wilson. Hume will be hoping to put out a consistent four quarter performance against the Steel to really assert herself on the competition and take the heat off Wilson under the post, with her cleverly timed drives, long range shooting and play making abilities.

If the Steel can shut down the likes of Kara and Reuelu-Buchanan around circle edge and limit their chance to feed into Wilson it will put them in good stead to collect another win.

Northern Stars v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 12 July

After playing out the first draw in ANZ Premiership history the Stars will be eager to put that to bed and claim the “W”. The Magic came from seven goals behind last round to finish strongly and clench a draw and will be keen to go one better this round.

The Stars will be hoping to make amends for their fourth quarter slump and run out a consistent performance this round with the defensive duo renowned for their balling winning abilities. One of the more experienced defenders in the group, Storm Purvis can change the course of a game in an instance with her leap and deceptive speed to dart around the court and force turnovers. Teammate Kate Burley has blossomed into a commanding prospect in the goal circle with her tenacity, often throwing herself at every contest and creating doubt in the feeders minds while Oceane Maihi is able to inject plenty of height and aerial presence, something the Stars might need in order to contend with Kelsey McPhee at the post. The goal shooter can suffer from the yips at times under the post, but when she is on song she is hard to stop credit to her strong hands, quick footwork and clever body positioning. The influence of Abigail Latu-Meafou will be crucial if the Magic are to replicate their Round 4 performance or notch up a win with the goal attack showcasing her accuracy to post, smooth movement and skill to slot them from range. A cameo appearance from youngster Khiarna Williams could also work wonders for the Magic in order to offset the Stars defence.

Through the midcourt the Stars boast some exciting players with Fa’amu Ioane one of the most electric wing defences in the competition, with her speed off the mark and quick hands. Her presence around circle edge and in the defensive third allows her to gobble up turnover ball and spring into transition. The versatility of Lisa Mather is another key for the Stars able to swing from wing defence into centre when needed. For the Magic, Whitney Souness is a real powerhouse able to deliver the ball with great pace and precision to catch defenders off guard while Ariana Cable-Dixon is reliable through centre.

This game could once again go down to the wire but expect the Stars to have learnt from their mistakes last round and impose themselves for a full four quarters.

Mainland Tactix v. Northern Mystics
Sunday, 12 July

Playing only nine days earlier both sides would have taken plenty out of their match-up when it comes to one-on-ones and overall team strategy. A quick start from the Tactix gave them the early ascendancy before the Mystics rallied and wrestled back the momentum to win the next three quarters. With this in mind expect the Tactix to come out with a real fire in the belly and increased intensity.

Shooting prodigy Grace Nweke is relishing every single minute of court time with the 18-year-old dominating in all facets such as volume and accuracy. She is simply unstoppable under the post using her 193cm frame to ward off defenders and dictate the space. Her aerial presence is second to none while her balance is equally impressive. Goal attack Saviour Tui is growing with confidence, not afraid to look to the post while Asher Grapes is constantly able to find space and create attacking forays. Up against some stiff opposition in Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson the Mystics goalers will once again have to be on their A-game. Fakahokotau impressed last week with her hunt for the ball, vision and quick footwork while Watson is renowned for her cleanliness and lean over the shot. If both defenders can work in tandem to minimise the influence of Nweke and win ball back it will be a huge bonus for the Tactix.

Wing attack Peta Toeava is the real barometer for the Mystics with her turn of speed and sheer ball placement. Toeava only needs a second to look into the goal circle and deliver a pinpoint pass into Nweke under the post such is her vision, understanding and connection with the goaler. It will be up to Charlotte Elley to limit her influence around circle edge and apply strong hands over pressure given Toeava’s shorter stature. The battle in centre will also be interesting with Tayla Earle and Kimiora Poi donning very similar styles. Earle has been really dominating for the Mystics with her high level of endurance and energetic style of play, helping out both in offence and defence. Poi plays a more defensive role with her strong hands over pressure and three foot marking, allowing her wing attacks to do the heavy lifting in attack.

It will ultimately come down to whether or not the Tactix can generate enough turnover ball and restrict Nweke under the post or if Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka can shut down the Tactix shooting end once more.

Mainland Tactix v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Monday, 13 July

In the final game of the round, fatigue could be a key element for both sides as they enter their second game. The last time these two sides met it was the Tactix that got the win by nine goals but the Magic have come along in leaps and bounds since Round 3 with their on court connections strengthening.

Boasting an impressive shooting combination in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird the Tactix will be hoping to take advantage of the tall goaler and apply some real scoreboard pressure. Down on their accuracy last round expect both shooters to come out with a real intensity. It is unlikely for Selby-Rickit to have two quiet games in a row given her class and ability to spark back into action. The goal attack is a key cog in attack with her play making abilities often bringing Bird into the game with her well executed passes. However the tussle in the goal circle will be extremely physical as Magic goal keeper Erena Mikaere is not afraid to contest every ball that comes her way. Mikaere’s aerial presence is impressive and so too is Georgia Tong, with the two able to swat away balls with ease. Holly Fowler is another one to keep an eye out for in the Magic defence unit with her ability to read the play and take a key intercept at any given moment.

With a game saving intercept under her belt, Magic captain and wing defence Sam Winders is a real barometer for her side. she is able to spark the Magic into action with her constant effort around the court to create a tip and then transition into attack. Her ability to seamlessly switch from wing defence to centre is second to none able to shake up the course of a game. Winders will have to be on her game from the opening whistle with Erikana Pedersen and Samon Nathan both clever in their movement and strong around circle edge for the Tactix in attack.

To stay in touch with the top of the pack, the Tactix have to win this clash so expect them to pull out all the stops and assert themselves from the get-go against an inconsistent Magic side.

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 4

ANOTHER high-powered round of ANZ Premiership action is done and dusted, with some interesting scorelines and stats telling the story of Round 4. We take a look at the numbers of the round that was.

When it came to circle edge this round, there were none more impressive than Peta Toeava who continued her impressive run of form to run home with 25 goal assists, 32 feeds and 18 centre pass receives to her name against the Tactix on Friday night. Joining Toeava in the 30-plus feeding club is Tactix’ Erikana Pedersen (18 assists from 32 feeds, 20 receives), Steel’s Gina Crampton (16 assists from 30 feeds, 28 receives) and Stars’ Grace Kara (17 assists from 32 feeds, 24 receives), while Magic’s Whitney Souness racked up 49 centre pass receives and 31 assists from 52 feeds across her two games.

The circle defenders pulled out all the stops once more but did not necessarily have the same flair as usual with intercept stats down across the board. Temalisi Fakahokotau was impressive as ever and had a much more well-rounded game than usual, racking up five gains to top the leaderboard this round and was joined on that number by her opposition keeper in Sulu Fitzpatrick who was much cleaner in comparison. Sitting on four gains apiece were Storm Purvis and Phoenix Karaka (both two intercepts) and Holly Fowler (one intercept), joined by Kelly Jury and Erena Mikaere who both played two games, though Jury certainly got the better stats with another three gains to her name. Karin Burger and Georgia Tong also had solid games, racking up two intercepts apiece.

Heading down the other end, there is no surprise who topped the goaling tally once again with the same names performing well consistently week in and week out. Grace Nweke was influential as always with 38 goals from 40, while Maia Wilson was the only other individual performer who put in close to a similar tally with 34 from 37. The real impressive performance this week was from the Pulse however, with both Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio going at 100 per cent accuracy in the first match before backing it up with a high accuracy tally again the next day, shooting a combined 45 and 46 goals respectively across the two matches. Kelsey McPhee had an up-and-down round, shooting 19 from 26 on Sunday and 28 from 37 on Monday, clearly improving her volume though her combined accuracy of 75 per cent leaves something to be desired in the Magic camp. Meanwhile, Te Paea Selby-Rickit (16 from 24) was also down on accuracy but made up for it in the midcourt with 18 centre pass receives, teaming well with Ellie Bird who was on song at 90 per cent accuracy. Kalifa McCollin and Jennifer O’Connell were much more robust in attack this week, combining for 87 per cent accuracy.

MORE MATCH STATS:

>> Northern Mystics (47) defeated Mainland Tactix (42)

>> Central Pulse (47) defeated Southern Steel (40)

>> Central Pulse (51) defeated WBOP Magic (30)

>> WBOP Magic (46) drew with Northern Stars (46)

 

ANZ Premiership: Round 4 – Pulse remain unbeaten after topsy-turvy victory over the Steel

COMING into the game with nothing to lose, the Steel put up a good fight over the Pulse but left empty-handed after the fiery Round 4 contest. While the Pulse did not have it all their own way, they were utterly dominant under the post and defensively it is hard to see any teams really coming close. At points, it was a lot closer than expected, with the Steel ahead at three quarter time, but the reigning champions were just too good and do not look likely to be giving up their crown any time soon, getting up with a 14-5 last term to run away with a 47-40 victory.

A held ball on the first centre pass meant the Steel were in chase mode from the very start. Ameliaranne Ekenasio put on an absolute clinic in the goal attack position, moving flawlessly and demonstrating her balanced and effortless shooting technique. She combined fantastically with Maddy Gordon at wing attack to provide plenty of options in the Pulse attack end. Despite a few early turnovers from both sides, Pulse started off in control, whilst the Steel seemed tense and took a while to find their feet. Through some smooth playmaking from Kalifa McCollin, the Steel pulled it back to within one, but the opening quarter was the Ekenasio show.

The Silver Ferns captain provides so much inspiration for her team, and they were contesting every ball and making transition play very difficult for the Steel. There were moments of fluency in the Steel attack but a couple of misplaced feeds were eaten alive by Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore. For the Steel, Kate Heffernan’s work rate was impressive, and they managed to claw their way back in through a timely intercept from Shannon Saunders. The Pulse demonstrated strong drives and plenty of punch while the Steel were struggling to get the ball over the transverse line and their feeding accuracy let them down. Towards the end of the first quarter, the Pulse took their foot off the pedal to finish the quarter with a slim three-goal lead.

In the second quarter, Jury’s height was causing all sorts of problems, and the Steel ended up giving away the ball several times by taking too many passes before going to post. The Pulse were lethal on their transitions, and though the Steel were clinging on there was a sense that the game may turn into a total washout. But Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had other ideas and was ready to take on the challenge of Ekenasio. She came to life in the second quarter and the Steel notched up five in a row with the chance to take the lead heading into the break.

Gina Crampton was finding great feeding position, letting the ball go easily and seemed to have the measure of Karin Burger. As the Pulse started to lose their connections and tense up, the Steel made it seven on the trot and forced Pulse to make a change in the defensive end. Elle Temu came on to offer another look but Jennifer O’Connell was confident and really firing, so Temu struggled to have the desired impact.

The experienced pair of Saunders and Claire Kersten were having a good tussle in the midcourt, but this quarter was all about the wing attacks. When Crampton started to lift, Gordon did the same and the vision and pinpoint feeds helped keep shooting percentages very high for both teams. Through pure willpower, and with help from a couple of Pulse errors, the Steel steamed on ahead with a defiant display and the score was 24-23 at half-time.

The Steel attack combination of Crampton, O’Connell and McCollin really started to sing in the second and third quarters. Steel came out of the blocks very strong defensively in the third, with Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita getting hands everywhere. The Pulse defence, in contrast, seemed flat. Changes for the Pulse saw Jury return to the court and Tiana Metuarau come into wing attack, replacing Gordon. Fifita was doing a lot of work at the back keeping Aliyah Dunn busy, she had actually shot fewer goals than Ekenasio in the first half. In a total switch from the first quarter, it was now the Pulse clinging on to the game, trailing by two when the whistle blew for three-quarter time.

In a game that was expected to be a blowout, it was now danger time for the Pulse and they knew they needed a big effort for the final quarter. Gordon replaced Kersten at centre and the talented youngster Metuarau stayed on in wing attack. Pulse equalised and started the quarter all guns blazing, playing with power and presence. In a complete turnaround from the third quarter, Pulse began to dominate defensively and really punish the Steel.

After scoring eight in a row, the Pulse finally let the Steel score their first goal of the final quarter with six minutes remaining – the score was now 42-36 to the Pulse. Steel had lost their fluency in attack and the Pulse were taking advantage of the slower ball speed and miscommunication. The champions were ruthless in the final quarter, pushing the score out to 47-40 and denying the Steel a much-needed bonus point. Too many errors for Steel and their final quarter let them down, it was a shame they could not come away with something after such a strong opening three quarters.

The Pulse finished the game on 100 per cent shooting accuracy, and it is hard to know what teams can really do to stop them. The Magic will take on this challenge next, while the Steel will need to maintain a full performance when they take on the Pulse for the second time next week.

>>>PULSE TEAM PAGE

>>>STEEL TEAM PAGE

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

CENTRAL PULSE 14 | 9 | 10 | 14 (47)
SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 13 | 5 (40)

STARTING SEVEN:

PULSE:

GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

2020 ANZ Premiership Preview: Round 4

WITH three teams sitting on one win apiece expect Round 4 of the ANZ Premiership to bring plenty of excitement and cause a major shake-up to the ladder. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Central Pulse both play two games in Round 4 with the latter hoping to keep their undefeated record intact. 

Northern Mystics v. Mainland Tactix
Friday, 3 July

Sitting at two and three respectively on the ladder the clash between the Mystics and Tactix will generate a wealth of excitement. With star power across the court and strong defensive units it will come down to who can deliver under the post on Friday and get their side over the line in what will be a defensive slog. 

There is no denying that the Tactix pose one of the strongest defensive line-ups with Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau running rampant down back. Watson is incredibly damaging in the goal circle with her ability to cleanly manoeuvre around the body of her opponent, hunt for the ball and skill through transition while her partner in crime oozes tenacity and aerial strength. However the duo will have their work cut out for them up against power house goal shooter Grace Nweke. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene last year and has not only grown in confidence but so too firepower, able to reel the ball in time and time again, using her strength and footwork to constantly command the ball. It will be up to fellow Mystics goalers Saviour Tui and Asher Grapes to detract from Nweke under the post and draw either Watson or Fakahokotau to allow the goal shooter to engage in one on one battles in which she is almost impossible to beat. Although Watson and Fakahokotau are formidable in the defensive circle it will be pivotal for the likes of Charlotte Elley to stand up and quell the influence of Peta Toeava in wing attack if they are to reduce the speed and accuracy in which the ball enters the circle for the Mystics. 

Still ironing out their connections in the goal circle Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit seemed to find their rhythm last week and will be eager to replicate that again this round. Selby-Rickit is a real playmaker in the attacking third for the Tactic able to set up a plethora of plays and create space with her pin point passes and ability to glide into space. Her long range shooting allows Bird to do damage under the post and hold strong. Both down on their usual accuracy in their previous outing they will have to sink them against the Mystics given how strong both Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick are when it comes to rebounds. The Mystics pair are extremely tight, constantly applying physical pressure and using their long lean to get in the head of their opponents. Karaka and Fitzpatrick are renowned for their ability to hunt ball and stop any attacking forays meaning the Tactix will have to be on their a-game if they are to get past the Mystics defensive unit.

With Toeava a key through the midcourt for the Mystics, the output of Kimiora Poi and Erikana Pedersen will play a big part in whether or not the Tactix can get over the line and potentially progress up the ladder. 

Central Pulse v. Southern Steel
Saturday, 4 July

Looking for their fourth straight win the reigning champs will be eager to stamp their authority against the struggling Steel who only managed their first win last week. It will be no easy feat however, as the Steel will be riding a wave of momentum and seeming to find their rhythm across the court. 

Headlined by a couple of Silver Ferns the midcourt is a real engine room for the Steel but the Pulse also boast a couple of handy players through the centre third. The combination of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton is ultra impressive with the two able to seamlessly link up across the court and deliver bullet passes into the likes of Jennifer O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin. Crampton is explosive in the attacking third, able to hit circle edge with ease and precision but will be challenged every step of the way by Karin Burger. Not your typical wing defence, the Pulse midcourter oozes defensive pressure and height, standing at 184cm, a full 10cm taller than her opponent. Her hands over pressure and clever three foot marking is what makes her such a commanding presence able to block Crampton’s vision into the circle. Meanwhile the battle between Saunders and Claire Kersten will also generate plenty of intrigue with the two able to run all day and almost cancel each other out. Having both represented the Ferns the two centres know what it takes to stand up on the big stage and deliver both in attack and defence.

Coming off a strong performance last round O’Connell will be keen to emulate her hot form, with her strong holds, clever circle positioning and increased accuracy. Despite spending some time on the bench last week McCollin was a real playmaker in the attacking third, using her speed and flair to keep defenders on their toes. Without Georgia Heffernan in the mix due to a suspected knee injury, the Steel will have to be on their A-game if they are to combat the extreme defensive pressure of the Pulse given they boast so much experience and skill. Kelly Jury is no easy beat under the post imposing her 192cm frame on opposition attack units with her lean over the shot, long limbs and strength. Partner in crime Katrina Rore is another key element for the Pulse with her ball winning ability, transition through court and sheer netball smarts. 

With both sides coming in with momentum it will come down to whether or not the Steel can deliver under the post and keep the Pulse at bay. 

Central Pulse v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic
Sunday, 5 July

In their second game of the round the Pulse will be hoping to keep their undefeated record and inflict more pain on the Magic. It has been a tricky return to netball for Waikato Bay of plenty unable to register a win since Round 1 but will be hoping to exploit any fatigue the Pulse may have in their second outing of the round. 

There is no denying that the Pulse have one of the most dominant attacking units in the competition with the likes of Aliyah Dunn the main culprit under the post. The young goal shooter is a commanding presence, able to score at both a high volume and high accuracy making her incredibly hard to stop. Unfazed by the physical nature of the game Dunn takes everything in her stride and will have to absorb a wealth of physicality from Magic goal keeper Erena Mikaere. Renowned for her long limbs and body on body style of play expect Mikaere to be on the hunt for plenty of ball to stop it from coming into Dunn under the post. The calming presence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio for the Pulse adds another string to their bow in the shooting circle meaning Holly Fowler or Georgia Tong will have to try and disrupt the goal attacks flow with their hands over pressure. Ekenasio often has the ball on a string, able to seamlessly set up clever plays and can shoot from range making her a threat to be reckoned with while the inclusion of Tiana Metuarau is exciting for the Pulse as all three goalers can hold their own in the circle. 

Up against the likes of Magic shooter Kelsey McPhee, the likes of Jury, Elle Temu and Rore will be wanting to win back a lot of ball and shut down the aerial path to goal with her read of the play. Dispute not getting a wealth of court time Temu is an exciting prospect for the Pulse in defence with her strong body on body pressure, ability to rotate through the circle and sheer strength to outmuscle her opponents under the post. McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou have struggled for volume over the past couple of games and will be keen to prove their worth under the post. Latu-Meafou oozes flair and creativity with ball in hand, able to create plays and set up McPhee under the post something she will have to do in order to combat the Pulse. 

Given the amount of star-power across the court for the Pulse, they should get the job done comfortably but do not rule out the Magic who will be hungry for a win given their lacklustre start to the 2020 season. 

Waikato Bay Plenty Magic v. Northern Stars
Monday, 6 July

With the Magic taking the court the night before the Stars will be hoping to capitalise on their opponents and get back in the winners column after an up and down season so far. Sitting at one win apiece heading into the round this game could have a huge impact on both teams ladder position and their chances of potentially making finals. 

Headlined by Maia Wilson in goal shooter the Magic in particular Mikaere, will have to be on song from the get go to limit any easy ball into the towering shooter. Wilson is almost unstoppable from under the post with the goaler able to hold space effortlessly and use her body angles to keep the defenders at arms length. Throw in her ability to score quickly and accurately and the Stars definitely have the upper hand. However, Wilson is renowned for her ability to reel in the high balls much like Mikaere meaning the work from Jamie Hume out the front will be instrumental. If the goal attack can get off the hook early, command the ball and take the attention away from Wilson it will give the Stars a chance to generate some real scoreboard pressure. 

Through the midcourt the battle is just as fierce with a couple of Silver Ferns set to butt heads. In her first season back after giving birth, Grace Kara has not skipped a beat, able to deliver the ball perfectly into Wilson under the post. Kara’s use of speed, clever ball placement and vision is what makes her such a formidable opponent, able to dart in and out of traffic with ease. However she struggles up against niggly styled defenders, cue Magic captain Sam Winders. The talented wing defence is lightning quick, extremely athletic and renowned for her defensive marking, able to keep the attackers away from circle edge largely in part to her high netball nous. After a solid outing last week for the Stars, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan will be hoping to keep that intensity up with the young centre carving up the court. Her speed, ball delivery and skill to read the play is crucial for the Stars while Ariana Cable-Dixon along with Whitney Souness have speed to burn for the Magic in attack. 

With talent through the midcourt it will ultimately come down to whether or not the Magic can nullify the influence of Wilson under the post and if they can it will go a long way in securing their second victory of the season.

2020 ANZ Premiership stats wrap: Round 3

WITH Round 3 of the ANZ Premiership done and dusted, it’s time to take a look at the best stats of the week. Both Northern Mystics and Southern Steel took the court twice, making for some interesting numbers to finish the round.

In a round that seemed a lot more defensively focused than last week, a couple of defenders stood out with Sulu Fitzpatrick leading the way with four intercepts and nine gains in a winning Mystics outfit on Saturday, before adding two more gains to her tally against the Pulse on Monday. Fitzpatrick’s partner in crime Phoenix Karaka had a similar output, pulling off three intercepts in the first match while Emily Burgess combined for three intercepts across the two games. Also impressive was the explosive defensive unit of the Tactix, with the side running out victors thanks to the efforts of Temalisi Fakahokotau (three intercepts, six gains), Jane Watson (two intercepts from five gains) and Charlotte Elley (two intercepts).

Magic’s Holly Fowler racked up five gains and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit was also solid with six evenly spread across her two matches, while Taneisha Fifita well and truly led the penalty tally this round with 32 and four gains across the two games.

Down the other end, Maia Wilson led the way in singular games thanks to a phenomenal 37-goal output at 88 per cent accuracy, while Grace Nweke was similarly dominant across her two matches, shooting 63 goals from 73 attempts. Jennifer O’Connell had a much better week, scoring 60 goals at 88 per cent accuracy in her back-to-back matches, while Ellie Bird was solid once more with 33 goals.

For Magic, Kelsey McPhee (21 from 26) and Abigail Latu-Meafou (15 from 21) shared the load while Ameliaranne Ekenasio led the tally for goal attacks, shooting 21 from 24 and spending some time in goal shooter towards the end of the match, while Kalifa McCollin was slightly down on her output and accuracy this week but across her two games still managed 26 goals from her 35 attempts. Te Paea Selby-Rickit was not quite as dominant to post with 12 from 19 but made up for it with her 17 centre pass receives, doing a wealth of work out the front.

Through the midcourt, dual match players in Peta Toeava (39 assists across both games) and Steel’s Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders (33 assists apiece) dominated the stats sheet, while Mila Reuelu Buchanan stepped up to dominate the individual match stats with 20 assists against the Steel. Reuelu Buchanan was closely followed by Claire Kersten (18 assists) and Erikana Pedersen (17 assists) while Whitney Souness put out an impressive well-rounded performance with 17 goal assists and two intercepts.

 

MORE MATCH STATS:

>> Mainland Tactix (45) defeated WBOP Magic (36) 

>> Northern Mystics (46) defeated Southern Steel (42)

>> Northern Stars (47) defeated by Southern Steel (49)

>> Central Pulse (42) defeated Northern Mystics (35)

2020 ANZ Premiership – Five talking points: Round 3

THE ANZ Premiership delivered once again over the weekend with all six teams showcasing their skill and dominance across the court. Round 3 was unfortunately marred with injury while the Pulse continued their merry way and ended the Mystics winning streak on the way. 

Steel claim first win of the season:
In their second game of the round the Southern Steel mustered up a strong performance downing the Northern Stars in a rematch of the elimination final that saw them knocked out of grand final contention in 2019. It was a hot start for the Steel who proved that when firing on all cylinders they are hard to beat and are classy with ball in hand. Jennifer O’Connell was a commanding presence under the post, able to clearly indicate where she wanted the ball and use her footwork to ward off defenders. Through the midcourt the class of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton shone through with the tried and tested duo relying on their strong connection to thread the ball through the defence and deliver the ball on a silver platter to O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin. The shared effort between the two midcourters worked wonders with defenders unable to effectively stop their consistent output around the circle edge. 

Defensive masterclass:
Round 3 was heavily dictated by defence with the Tactix keeping the Magic to 36 goals for the game, Mystics restricting the Steel to 42 goals and Pulse limiting the Mystics to 35. Dominant performances from Tactix duo Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau set tongues wagging with the two putting on a clinic down back with a combined 11 gains, five intercepts, four rebounds and six deflections. Watson elevated her game even further, only registering the one penalty for the match, showcasing her restraint and cleanliness at the contest. For the Mystics the combination of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka worked wonders with the two applying a wealth of pressure to shut down options and pick off passes with 13 gains, seven intercepts, eight deflections and one rebound between them in the clash against the Steel. Although the Pulse defensive unit did not have a stats filling performance it was their perceived pressure and stifling style of play that caused havoc, shutting down their opponents’ every move. Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore managed four gains, three deflections and two rebounds. 

Devastating injury blow to young up and coming goaler:
After settling into the attacking unit, Southern Steel’s Georgia Heffernan was struck down with a knee injury midway through the third quarter against the Northern Stars. Awaiting confirmation to the extent of the injury, Heffernan could be a huge loss for the Steel who were starting to find their rhythm in attack with the young goaler able to come on and have an immediate impact credit to her height and netball nous. In her first season at ANZ level Heffernan was steadily building into her role on court, displaying her accuracy to post and clever movement in the attacking third. 

Magic need to unlock their shooting potential:
Despite challenging both the Mystics and Tactix in the past two rounds the Magic have been unable to do enough on the scoreboard to worry their opponents and collect the win. In Round 2 the Magic managed 40 goals while their Round 3 total was even lower with 36 goals. Although the combination of Abigail Latu-Meafou and Kelsey McPhee is strong they simply cannot generate enough opportunities at goal to put up a commanding score. In the second half against the Tactix, the Magic due only scored 14 goals – seven goals per quarter – while their opponents piled on 14 goals alone in the third term showcasing just how much the Magic’s attack end struggled. While accuracy was not a huge problem with McPhee sitting at 81 per cent and Latu-Meafou at 71 per cent, it was their output that did the damage with McPhee converting 21 goals and Latu-Meafou sinking 15. 

Pulse are still the team to beat:
In a gruelling four quarter battle against the Mystics, the Pulse had the final say, running over the top of their competitors in the last quarter. It was a strong showing from the Mystics but the reigning premiers were simply too good, able to wear their opponents down and capitalise on their opportunities. Clever with ball in hand and strong in defence the Pulse won ball back and propelled the ball back down court to create plenty of attacking forays. Their ability to withstand pressure and rise to the occasion is second to none. Inspired by captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Tiana Metaurau in attack the Pulse looked revitalised and composed giving them that much needed competitive edge while the speed and excitement of Maddy Gordon helped to lift the Pulse. 

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Steel notch up opening win of the season

IN a rematch of the 2019 elimination final there was plenty of feeling in the game with the Steel claiming redemption and their first win of the season (49-47). Although the two goal win was marred with injury the Steel proved the short turnaround did not phase them, coming out hot from the get go, flicking the ball around with precision in the attacking third. Despite a strong win in Round 2 the Northern Stars did not seem to find their mojo for the full four quarters, rattled by the Steel’s pressure and tenacity. 

The Steel raced out of the blocks in the opening quarter with their connections in attack on full display. Stars goal shooter Maia Wilson slotted the first goal of the game, but from there on in it was all the Steel with their clever ball movement and defensive pressure causing all sorts of headaches. The Steel defenders pushed Wilson to shoot from range with the goaler missing two consecutive shots and making them pay with their 100 per cent shooting accuracy up the other end. The patient approach in attack paid dividends for the Steel with Jennifer O’Connell holding strong and owning the backspace. The Steel shooting end of O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin got on a roll sinking five goals straight and opening up a commanding lead. Their dominance was so profound it caused the Stars to make changes down back with Storm Purvis pushing out to goal defence and Oceane Maihi coming on at goal keeper to provide that aerial presence. The Northern Stars struggled to generate any second phase play in the attacking third giving the Steel plenty of chances to cause turnovers. Steel continued to put the foot down establishing a five goal lead despite the Stars pushing hard and rallying late in the term to try and create some attacking momentum. 

Down by five goals at quarter time the Stars came out with a real pep in their step and heightened defensive pressure. Clearly on the hunt for turnover ball Purvis got her hands to ball in the opening minute of the game contesting the high ball and placing doubt in the feeders minds. Moments later partner in crime Kate Burley delivered, taking a huge intercept and propelled the ball back down the court. With increased intensity in defence, Wilson found her groove under the post with her strong rebounding positioning and impressive balance to dance along the baseline and keep the ball in. With nine minutes left in the quarter the Steel were yet to score while the Stars went on a four goal shooting spree using the angles in attack to open up space and apply scoreboard pressure. Jamie Hume continued to impress from her first quarter output, proving to be a real playmaker in the attacking third with her well weighted passes and drive while teammate Grace Kara was crucial throughout the quarter using her vision to deliver into the circle. With the Stars pushing, Kate Heffernan was pinged with a caution, while Taneisha Fifita struggled to combat Wilson under the post. A mere goal separated the sides before Gina Crampton kicked it up a gear for the Steel with her impressive vision into the circle prompting the Steel to go on a surge in the final five minutes of the quarter. 

After getting within touching distance before the half time break the Stars continued with the same line-up while the Steel opted for some changes across the court. Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin while Abby Erwood pulled on the goal defence bib pushing Selby-Rickit to goal keeper and Fifita to the bench. It was goal for goal for the opening few minutes of the quarter with both sides feeling each other out and adapting to the changes. Heffernan had a shaky start with a held ball on her first attempt before steadily building into the game. The Stars were getting plenty of hands to ball in defence with Burley and Purvis creating a strong wall in defence while up the other end the connection between Wilson and Hume was blossoming. With momentum swinging back and forth the Steel were struck by injury with Georgia Heffernan going down with a suspected knee injury. Crampton upped the ante in attack, releasing the ball from distance but that did not seem to phase the Stars who managed three goals in a row for and drew even with 10 seconds left in the quarter, showcasing just how intense the battle was. 

The final quarter lived up to the hype with the game going right down to the wire. Steel sunk the opening goal of the term with the Stars replying instantly. It was goal for goal once again with both sides treasuring possession and capitalising on their centre pass. Kendall Corkery had a profound impact for the Steel, niggling at Kara and making her work hard to win any ball circle edge. Shannon Saunders showcased her brilliance with a timely tip to turn the ball over and was the clear spark for the Steel who opened up a three goal lead and did not look back. With two minutes left Purvis took a key rebound to reduce the margin to three goals and give her side a fighting chance but it was to no avail with O’Connell landing the final blow. 

O’Connell was a constant under the post for the Steel with 32 goals from 36 attempts at 89 per cent while McCollin was deadly going at 93 per cent sinking 14 goals from her 15 attempts. For the Stars WIlson dominated with 37 goals from 42 attempts at 88 per cent while Hume was down on her accuracy sitting at 67 per cent missing five of her 15 shots. Defensively Purvis starred with three gains, three deflections and two rebounds. Fifita and Selby-Rickit combined for five gains and seven deflections.

 

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> STARS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

NORTHERN STARS 10 | 13 | 13 | 11 (47)
SOUTHERN STEEL 15 | 11 | 10 | 13 (49)

STARTING SEVEN:

Northern Stars:

GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Fa’amu Ioane
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis

Southern Steel:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Mystics maintain their winning streak in third round clash

IN a fairly predictable result for both teams, the Mystics remained unbeaten in Season 2020 while the Steel are still on the hunt for their first win of the year. Steel came in carrying the weight of a string of difficult losses and never quite managed to shake off that burden. In contrast, the Mystics, with their young and fiery shooting line-up, produced a full-court performance led by experienced defensive duo captain Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick, setting themselves up nicely for some tough tests coming up.

The Mystics were brimming with confidence at the start of the game and despite being without Bailey Mes they have proven their worth in the competition so far and earned a decent reputation. The tall timber of Grace Nweke is such an asset for them, and she came into the game fresh after shooting 41 from 45 last week. Tayla Earle was up against the experienced World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders, who has over one hundred more national league appearances than the youngster.

The Steel got off to a shaky start and it seemed that Jennifer O’Connell lacked confidence in the shooting circle, which had a ripple effect on the team. A couple of early turnovers gave the Mystics the edge, and the defensive pressure from Karaka and Fitzpatrick set the tone for the game. Kalifa McCollin played excellently in the goal attack position but needed O’Connell to create a stronger target in order to build flow and connections in the attack end. In contrast, the Mystics were fearless in attack, with Peta Toeava’s rapid speed and vision into Nweke giving them the upper hand early.

A couple of turnovers later, the Steel were still struggling to find each other and the Mystics used this to their advantage with their rock-solid defence scooping up plenty of ball. Steel managed to gather momentum towards the second half of the quarter and capitalised on a couple of Mystics errors to go on a five goal run. This comeback showed they had really warmed into the game and they started finding space and options in the middle channel. Mystics let go of a healthy lead allowing the Steel to creep back in with the quarter ending at 13-12 to the Northern side.

In the second quarter, Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin – a bizarre change considering McCollin had been running the show in the Steel attack end. Fitzpatrick took advantage of a couple of sloppy feeds, and the Mystics went on a run, taking the score out to 17-14. Then the momentum swung, and with O’Connell growing in confidence at the post the Steel somehow managed to get back level, partly due to fantastic hustle from wing defence Kate Heffernan.

For the Mystics, Asher Grapes was having trouble finding a good shooting position and was not able to draw the defenders away from Nweke. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita realised Grapes was hesitant to go to post and started to double back on Nweke. This prompted coach Helene Wilson, assisted by Dame Noeline Taurua for this game, to swap in Saviour Tui to provide a different look for the attack end. This had an immediate impact and combined with two timely intercepts from Karaka, gave the Mystics a well-needed lift. There was a turning point in the game, taking the Mystics into half time with a four goal lead.

Steel went into the locker room with just one intercept to the Mystic’s six and were only shooting at 74 per cent. The Mystics were putting on a full-court defensive display, and Emily Burgess was doing an excellent job at keeping Gina Crampton away from good feeding position. Consistency was lacking in places for both teams, and the Steel, in particular, appeared to lose focus at points during the first half.

With McCollin back on at goal attack, the third quarter started well for the Steel, but their rebounding let them down and the Mystics extended to a six-goal lead. Bringing on the youngster Tui was doing wonders for the Mystics attack, and Selby-Rickit was being kept unusually quiet. Tui made a huge difference, as there were now two threatening options in the goal circle for the Steel defenders to choose between. Something was still not quite clicking in the Steel attack end and two held balls on O’Connell’s shot meant the Mystics pulled ahead. The Steel looked a little frustrated and were almost trying too hard. They lacked the composure and the leadership of the Mystics side and this began to show in the scoreline, with the Steel trailing 29–37 at the end of the third quarter.

The Steel came out all guns blazing for the final quarter, with an urgency and intensity that gave fans a sliver of hope they were making a comeback. Through sheer force of will, they pulled it back to within three with eight minutes remaining. This heaped pressure on the young Mystics shooters, but they managed to dig deep and ride the wave, making use of the well-trodden route over the top to Nweke. Unfortunately towards the second half of the quarter the play started to lose fluidity and became scrappy. Mystics were rushing it, possibly already thinking ahead to their next match. The final score of 46 – 42 was a testament to the Steel’s hard work in the final quarter, and they were fortunate to come away with a bonus point. Overall the Steel showed patches of promise but were inconsistent and struggled to make it click. The Mystics gave a standout defensive performance and have found confidence in the young shooting duo of Nweke and Tui.

The Mystics managed to secure 10 rebounds to the Steel’s five, a surprising stat considering they both had the same number of attempts at the post. Low shooting percentage (76 per cent), as well as a high penalty count (51), tells the tale of the game for the Steel. While the Mystics managed the win, they still gave away 19 turnovers, something they will certainly want to improve before their next game.

The Steel will have to pick themselves up again for their second game of the weekend against the Stars, while the Mystics will look forward to an exciting test against the Pulse on Monday.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

NORTHERN MYSTICS 13 | 11 | 13 | 9 (46)
SOUTHERN STEEL 12 | 8 | 9 | 13 (42)

STARTING SEVENS:

MYSTICS:

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita