HAVING only played nine days ago in Round 4, this clash went down to the wire, with the Mainland Tactix taking home a narrow one goal win over the Northern Mystics (40-41). The Mystics starred last round, but the Tactix were determined to ensure history did not repeat itself putting on a stunning defensive performance. Scoring the last five goals of the game, the Mystics almost pulled off one of the greatest comebacks but fell agonisingly short with Saviour Tui’s goal on the whistle not counting.
Mystics set tongues wagging in the opening quarter, with Grace Nweke starting on the bench allowing Tui and Asher Grapes to headline the shooting end. The first term started with plenty of intensity, despite the different starting seven for the Mystics, with neither side willing to give an inch. It was a defensive masterclass from Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson with the duo applying a wealth of pressure over the shot and simply denying any easy access into the circle. Watson collected an intercept within the first minute of the quarter ultimately setting the tone for what would be a defensive grind. It was a scrappy start to the game with neither side able to maintain clean possession, but it was the Tactix that settled first thanks to the efforts of Watson and Fakahokotau. Their impressive space marking shut down the Mystics in attack and allowed them to gobble up everything that came their way, causing a real ruckus down in defence. Despite the amount of defensive ball the Tactix were getting they simply could not blow the Mystics out of the water and really make them pay instead they were plagued by inaccuracy missing three goals for the term. Up the other end, Tui impressed for the Mystics with the young goal shooter displaying her strength on the hold and accuracy to post converting all six goals at 100 per cent. However it was Fakahokotau that starred throughout the term amassing a whopping four deflections, one pickup and one intercept while Watson managed two intercepts for the term to gift the Tactix a two goal lead.
Struggling to find their rhythm in attack it was no surprise that dominant goal shooter Nweke entered the game, replacing Tui under the post. Nweke imposed herself from the get-go with her commanding frame, leap and strength to snatch the ball out of the air. With Nweke on, the Tactix upped the ante in defence with wing defence Charlotte Elley showcasing her three-foot marking with an impressive block on Peta Toeava. Clogging up the centre pass the Tactix continued to impress down back while the effort from Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka did not go unnoticed for the Mystics. The defensive duo nullified Ellie Bird under the post forcing Te Paea Selby-Rickit to inject herself into the game with her clever front cuts and drive to the post to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Tactix. She grew with confidence as the quarter progressed, sinking them from range to extend her sides lead to four goals at the eight minute mark of the term. For the Mystics, the connection between Toeava, Tayla Earle and Nweke developed with the midcourters able to find her with ease and deliver the ball with confidence. However Grapes struggled to find her mojo in attack only sinking one goal from her two attempts for the quarter. The momentum well and truly swung into the Mystics’ favour as they started to rally both in offence and defence to worry the Tactix and draw back within one goal at half time.
After entering the contest in the dying stages of the second quarter both Courtney Elliott and Sophia Fenwick retained their wing defence position for their respective side heading into the second term, while Tui re-entered the game at goal attack for the Mystics. Her movement and ability to go to post paid dividends with the Tactix defenders having to account for both goalers. With the centre pass the Tactix surged forward but Fitzpatrick and Karaka were up to the challenge with the defenders blocking out Bird and Selby-Rickit to collect the timely rebound and send the ball streaming down court to even the scores once more. With a tick over 10 minutes left in the quarter the Mystics hit the front for the first time thanks to Nweke. Finding their rhythm in attack with Toeava, Nweke and Earle all combining effortlessly it was Kimiora Poi for the Tactix that stood up to the challenge with the speedy centre receiving what felt like every second pass and imposing herself both in attack and defence with her pace, quick hands, vision and strong second phase work. She sparked a lift from Selby-Rickit and wing attack Erikana Pedersen with the latter delivering an impressive seven goal assist for the term. Scores were level as the timer hit the seven minute mark before Fakahokotau once again delivered for the Tactix creating a crucial deflection coming around the body of Tui. It was turnover central throughout the third with both sides combining for 13 as neither team could gain any real continuity, however the Tactix held onto their narrow lead heading into the final change.
With centre pass in hand the Mystics attacked hard and lifted their intensity while the Tactix were content to be patient with ball in hand and watch the clock tick down. A costly turnover from Bird in the goal circle gifted the Mystics a chance to cut down the deficit further before Poi answered with a pick-up of her own. Nweke continued to be the rock in the goal circle for the Mystics with the midcourters hoisting the ball up to her and showcasing her extreme athleticism on every single take. The Tactix went on a three goal spree to extend their lead, with Fenwick putting in the hard yards to shut down Toeava in attack and limit the quick release into the goal circle. Another Fakahokotau intercept seemed to have a Tactix win in the bag with her side pushing out to five goals. But the Mystics refused to lie down rallying in the final three minutes of the quarter to go a five goal run and draw with a final shot on the whistle that ultimately did not count.
It was a huge performance from Fakahokotau with the goal keeper amassing a staggering four gains, one intercept, six deflections and one pick-up. partner in crime Watson collected two gains, two intercepts, six deflections and four pick-ups, a key reason why their side won. Nweke proved a menace under the post finishing with 29 goals from 31 attempts for the game while Tui also had an influence in the goal circle with 10 from 11 at 91 per cent. For the Mainland Tactix, Bird was stronger under the post sinking 20 goals from 25 attempts. Up on her accuracy and volume Selby-Rickit also showcased her range converting 21 goals at 88 per cent.
MAINLAND TACTIX 8 | 12 | 12 | 9 (41)
NORTHERN MYSTICS 6 | 13 | 11 | 10 (40)
GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau
GS: Saviour Tui
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick