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Confidence-boosting victory for Tactix

A third-quarter charge by the Mainland Tactix led to their overthrow of the defending ANZ Premiership champion Northern Mystics, 62-59, at the Trusts Arena in Auckland.

The two sides went into this Round 3 match unbeaten, and the Mystics came out firing to lead by four at halftime. But the Tactix dominated the third spell and kept their composure in a nerve-wracking fourth quarter to register the important win.

A late comeback by the Mystics, scoring five goals in a row even with key shooter Grace Nweke on the sideline, brought them back to within one with 80 seconds left on the clock. But it was not quite enough to turn the tables.

Veteran shooter Ellie Bird, stepping into the Tactix to cover for Aaliyah Dunn who has undergone knee surgery, was calm and collected under the hoop, missing only one shot in her 52 attempts at goal. And Greer Sinclair’s vision down-court to feed Bird was crucial to their victory.

Playing in front of a vibrant home crowd for the first time this season, the Mystics began with a flourish, using speed and vision to pierce the Tactix defensive line, and strong midcourt defence to annoy the Tactix attack. 

They had a four-goal lead after the opening five minutes, but a Kimiora Poi intercept helped to close the gap to one.

In an early change for the home side, Katie Te Ao came on at centre for Tayla Earle who was nursing a black eye from a warm-up accident, and the flow of their attack wasn’t impacted, especially with Peta Toeava using her blinding skills and long accurate passes into Nweke at the back.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit Mainland Tactix netball
Mystics goal keep Phoenix Karaka defends a shot from Tactix goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit. PHOTO: NETBALL NZ

Bird shot without a miss in the first quarter, and the Tactix looked to have found their rhythm near the end of the spell – until some messy play was quickly capitalised on by the Mystics, who led 18-14 at the break.

The Mystics brought Carys Stythe into goal keep for Catherine Hall to start the second quarter, and she made her presence felt early, teaming up with Phoenix Karaka to cut off avenues to Bird and force Te Paea Selby-Rickit to put up more shots.

Mystics captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was also in superb form at wing defence, disrupting and stealing ball.

Karin Burger, in her 50th game for the Tactix, bolstered her game in the second quarter rattling Nweke and Filda Vui (also making her 50th ANZ Premiership appearance) and helping to reduce a six-goal deficit to one. The Mystics then brought Hannah Glen into their shooting circle to change up their attack.

Once again, the Mystics took control in the final minutes of the quarter – the Tactix mixing up their midcourt trying to find new options of getting the ball to their shooters – and the home side went into halftime 32-28 ahead.

The Tactix returned to the court with a new determination on defence, with goal keep Jane Watson especially fired up, and for the first time in the game, the Tactix took the lead.

Sinclair was a wise change at wing defence then centre, using her smart vision to feed Bird with long passes and the Tactix won the quarter, 19-13, to have a 47-45 advantage going into the final stanza.

Selby-Rickit left the court with a leg problem and was replaced by Jess Allan, who supported Bird well in the shooting circle.

Nweke then went off with eight minutes left on the clock, holding her knee, and Glen returned to the court to partner with Vui for the rest of the game. The young combo did well, standing up to the most experienced defenders in the game, and helped bring it back to within one in the last moments.

But it was the Tactix defence ­– Burger ending up with six deflections – who brought their foot down and held out for the win.

Mainland Tactix 62 (Ellie Bird 51/52, Te Paea Selby-Rickit 7/12, Jess Allan 4/5) Northern Mystics 59 (Grace Nweke 42/46, Filda Vui 9/10, Hannah Glen 8/10). 1Q: 14-18, HT: 28-32, 3Q: 47-45


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