IT was a quality game from the get-go with highly touted matchups across the court when the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix went head-to-head on Friday night. Coming off their first loss last round, the Mystics were hoping to bounce back well and so they did, winning 47-42 in a tightly contested match.
The Tactix were not to be discouraged by the Mystics’ form, and with the first centre pass in hand the side proved solid from the get-go. It was a tantalising and unpredictable affair, with the two sides unable to be split for much of the match. While the Tactix has the early ascendancy scoring four of the first five goals, it did not take long for the Mystics to even up the ledger once more, clogging up space in the Tactix attack again and again, and keeping the ball out of Ellie Bird’s hands. Tactix goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit impressed early with her ability to apply scoreboard pressure from anywhere in the circle, using her threatening footwork to find plenty of space.
It was a frantic first quarter, and neither side was really able to find that momentum, But the Tactix would not let the Mystics’ form faze them, leading 14-11 at the first change credit to stellar defensive work from Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson. The height mismatch between Fakahokotau and Grace Nweke was evident immediately, with the circle pair going head to head and both finding patches of strength for an even contest. While she did not put up a wealth of shots, speedy goal attack Asher Grapes provided a quality feeding option in and around the circle, forming a crucial cog in the Mystics’ slow start, though her unwillingness to go to post saw Nweke under a lot of pressure.
The second quarter started with a bang, with a couple of changes to the Mystics lineup and Fakahokotau getting up and about early with another couple of great saves to keep the Tactix a step ahead. Saviour Tui joined the fray and in doing that took some of the pressure off Nweke, with the tall timber applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure but well and truly being double teamed by the Tactix defence. Up the other end, Erikana Pedersen was having a field day out the front in wing attack, though Selby-Rickit had a slower patch meaning Bird had to step up if the side was to maintain control.
With both sides taking plenty of risks, Tactix were taking better advantage of their opportunities, with the likes of Fakahokotau and Watson doing wonders in defence, though Nweke’s clean hands continued to pay dividends. But while Peta Toeava had a slow first quarter, her vision to Nweke at the post was second to none and even when Charlotte Elley continued to block her vision and path to the ball, Toeava’s work rate allowed the Mystics to draw even to 24-apiece at half time.
A great start to the third from the Mystics saw the side take their first consistent lead of the match, scoring the first three goals of the term to stake a claim on the match, after trailing for most of the first half. Toeava really brought the flair in the third, switching on to be a constant threat and using her speedy hands to propel constant ball to Nweke – who was still at 100% accuracy until midway through the third. Fakahokotau worked her way back into the game to even the ledger before a speedy finish saw Mystics take a late 35-33 lead to end the quarter.
A long bomb from Selby-Rickit started the final term, with the Tactix hoping it was a sign of another strong quarter given the first started the same way. But the Tactix’ patience in attack could not compete with the Mystics’ hunt, with the defensive unit of Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick picking off any loose ball they could muster up. Improved speed and connection through the midcourt paid dividends for the Mystics, and while the Tactix were still fighting for every chance at the ball, it seemed like the Mystics were pulling away and rattling the usually composed Tactix outfit.
With the game hanging in the balance, it was the Mystics’ consistency that got the job done, making good use of turnover ball and, while relying on Nweke’s hands, also worked Tui into the fray, though the young attacker was forced off the court with less than two minutes for the blood rule – before returning less than a minute later with plenty of confusion ensuing. While the Tactix had provided a constant threat down court, their inconsistency failed them and with a final score of 47-42, the Mystics came away with one of their better wins for the season.
In a game of high powered matchups, an interesting one was that between Tayla Earle (14 assists, one intercept) and Kimiora Poi (11 goal assists), with the young defensive-minded centres almost canceling each other out. Toeava was impressive as ever, racking up 25 goal assists and taking the lead out the front, serving the ball on a silver platter to Nweke (38 goals at 95 per cent accuracy) and Tui who finished with a solid eight goals from 12 attempts. Pedersen led the way in the Tactix camp, heading up assists with 18 from 32 feeds and a gain, while Bird and Selby-Rickit shared the load to combine for 79 per cent accuracy (26 and 16 goals respectively). In defence, both Fakahokotau and Fitzpatrick finished with five gains, though Fitzpatrick was far cleaner in her pursuit with just five penalties to her name and awarded the player of the match award for her efforts. Karaka (four gains) and Watson (two gains) were similarly impressive.
Neither side plays again this weekend, but will have another go of it next round when they go head-to-head once more next Sunday evening.
NORTHERN MYSTICS 11 | 13 | 11 | 12 (47)
MAINLAND TACTIX 14 | 10 | 9 | 9 (42)
GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick
GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau