TEARS of elation graced the face of the Magic players as they notched up their second win of the season, the first since their return from the COVID-19 enforced break (37-36). It was as seesawing affair with the lead chopping and changing throughout the match and going right down to the wire. Fronting up to their second game of the round the contest between Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and Southern Steel was fierce and lived up to the hype. With both sides taking a while to find their feet it was the Magic that prevailed in the dying stages settled first and made the most of their opportunities.
Boasting a new look frontline with Khiarna Williams out in goal attack, the Magic looked settled in the goal circle finding plenty of rhythm and space in the front half thanks to her constant movement and vision into the circle. Williams combined seamlessly with Kelsey McPhee as the Magic goal shooter opened their account and set the tone backing herself from range and following her shot in. However it was an extremely physical under the post for the Magic with Steel defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita ploughing through the goalers and drawing the attention of the umpires recording a warning and caution respectively.
Conversely the Magic showcased their defensive prowess through wing defence Holly Fowler who highlighted her tenacity and speed off the mark by throwing herself into the contest to win ball back. Her hunt for the ball enabled her to fire the ball back down the court and into attack to convert and take the lead with the centre pass to follow. With Fowler dictating the play out in wing defence the pressure from circle defenders Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere was palpable forcing the Steel to throw the ball around and into the corner of the court to allow the Magic defenders more opportunities to collect turnover ball. The Steel struggled for accuracy due to the pressure over the shot while Magic put the foot down to stretch out to a five goal lead at the first change.
It was an even start to the term as both teams treasured the ball and looked to capitalise on their centre pass. Williams seemed to relish the extra court space out in goal attack taking everything in her stride and proving not to be afraid to take the shot. She made full use of her speed and composure to go to post and keep the Steel guessing in defence. Up the other end the connection between Kalifa McCollin and Ellen Halpenny developed throughout the term with the two rotating through the circle well and slotting them with ease. Steel continued to find more space to reduce the margin to two goals and played with a renewed sense of composure. But that did not last long as the back up work on the transverse line from the Magic. paid dividends
With turnovers coming hard and fast for the Steel the Magic went on a scoring spree establishing a six goal lead before the Steel opted for a couple of changes in defence to upset the Magic. Abby Erwood entered the game in at goal defence while Selby-Rickit slotted back into keeper with the changes having an immediate impact. But the Magic proved anything you can do we can do better as Mikaere and Tong put in a mountain load of work to cause hesitation on the shot for the Steel goalers. The momentum ebbed and flowed as both sides went on mini runs before the Steel wrestled some control in attack as the wheels started to fall off for the Magic.
After starring in the opening half the Magic made an unexpected change to the shooting combination with Abigail Latu-Meafou injected into the game at goal attack and Williams shifting back to shooter. Despite scoring the first goal for the Magic for the half the connection between Latu-Meafou and Souness was off, unable to find each other in attack and gifting the Steel with a wealth of chances to capitalise on the turnover and open up a two goal lead. The battle between Sam Winders and Shannon Saunders was never ending as the two contested every single ball that came their way. Winders showcased her aerial presence and defensive mindset to get hands to ball time and time again.
The Magic refused to give in fighting their way back to draw level again thanks to their defensive pressure and hands over marking to regather possession and attack. But the Steel lifted in the latter half of the term moving the ball with more freedom and speed in attack. After an accurate half, McCollin moved to the bench as Kiana Pelasio made her way on in goal attack adding a different element for the Magic defence to think about. Although Souness had all the momentum in the opening half youngster Kate Heffernan upped the ante in the third with her quick footwork and insistent pressure around circle edge as the Steel clung onto a narrow lead.
Looking to rekindle their early form McPhee made her way back onto the court while Latu-Meafou maintained her role out at goal attack. Both sides struggled for continuity in the opening stages of the quarter with ball flying left right and centre and missed shots aplenty. With a win on the line the Magic kicked it up a gear fighting hard for every loose ball and confusing the space to create turnovers with captain Winders leading the way and desperation. With a wealth of opportunities coming their way it was inaccuracy that plagued the Magic but that did not stop them as they pushed on to draw level once more. Going goal for goal in the final two minutes a hero was needed and Souness proved to the one with the Magic wing attack taking a huge intercept on the transverse line and Latu-Meafou delivering the match winning goal.
The goal circle combination of McCollin and Halpenny was accurate as ever with McCollin nailing 20 goals from 22 attempts and Halpenny doing just as much damage with 15 goals. Youngster Williams had a commanding influence despite playing out of position in goal attack with 14 goals for the night while McPhee was strong under the post converting 14 goals from 16 attempts. The introduction of Latu-Meafou was influential with the goal attack hitting the winning shot. Souness was a ball magnet with 19 goal assists while the efforts of Crampton for the Steel were unmatched with the wing attack amassing 13 goal assists.
WBOP MAGIC 13 | 8 | 7 | 9 (37)
SOUTHERN STEEL 9 | 11 | 12 | 4 (36)
Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:
GS: Kelsey McPhee
GA: Khiarna Williams
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Sam Winders
WD: Holly Fowler
GD: Erena Mikaere
GK: Georgia Tong
GS: Ellen Halpenny
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita