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Magic edge past Stars in ANZ Premiership

Waikato-BOP Magic ANZ Premiership netball
Saviour Tui (centre) attempts to box-out Stars goal defence Kate Burley. PHOTO: NETBALL NZ/MB PHOTOGRAPHY

In a melodramatic 60 minutes, the Waikato-BOP Magic held out the fast-closing Northern Stars to claim a 60-56 victory in Auckland – in a match where both teams were unnerved by losing their centres to knee injuries.

While the Stars’ losing streak was frustratingly extended to nine, the Magic closed in on third-placed Northern Mystics on the leaderboard at the halfway point of the round-robin competition.


Coming off a painful one-goal loss a week earlier, the Stars' woes were compounded when electric centre Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was carried from the court just before halftime.

While the Magic shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Saviour Tui ( Fans’ Player of the Match) were in spectacular form, missing just two goals between them, the team also lost their centre, Ali Wilshier, in the final quarter.

Returning to the Auckland Netball Centre for the first time in four years, it was goal-for-goal well into the first quarter, with Magic’s lead of three short-lived.

Emma Thompson and Amorangi Malesala, both back from injury, were clear-cut in their feeds to Maia Wilson, who did not miss (and maintained that perfect record throughout the match with 32-from-32).

Magic goal shoot Tui was also in stellar form, even sinking one as she was falling out of court, and Ekenasio was also perfect under the hoop.

The Stars began rolling through their substitute’s bench, Monica Falkner bringing a new dynamism to the shooting circle and Holly Fowler making a difference at the defensive end.

There was brief concern for the Magic when Ekenasio hobbled off court at the end of the quarter, landing awkwardly on an ankle, but her team held onto a 16-15 lead.

Gina Crampton, who on Saturday was playing in Melbourne making her Super Netball debut for the Giants, took the court at wing attack for the Stars to start the second spell – and immediately reconnected with Wilson.

A defensive tip from Kate Burley, converted at the other end, gave the Stars their first lead in the game. But any elation was quickly tempered when Reuelu-Buchanan, a leader for the Stars this season, left the court injured.

Lisa Mather moved into centre and the Stars stayed in touch with the Magic, until some of their passing was too optimistic, and hard-won ball by Burley and Fowler wasn’t finished off. 

 With Magic midcourters Claire O’Brien and Ali Wilshier forging strong paths through to their shooters, and Georgia Takarangi’s sharp eye at goal defence leading to two superb intercepts, the Magic were suddenly ahead by six, 34-28, at halftime.

Magic maintained their dominance through the third quarter. As they poured on the pressure on defence through court, and Tui continued to move strongly and shoot sweetly, even from range, they pushed the difference out to double figures.

The Stars introduced young goal keep Lili Tokaduadua, but they could not find an answer for the movement and accuracy of Ekenasio and Tui – and the Magic led 52-42 at three-quarter time.

It was by no means done and dusted in the final stanza. In a fired-up home side, Tokaduadua snatched two crucial intercepts. When Wilshire dropped to the court floor clutching her knee, the Magic’s lead had been cut to seven.

The Stars closed the gap to four with the help of another smart Burley steal, but some squandered ball in the dying stages meant they could not push it any closer.

Waikato-BOP Magic 60 (Saviour Tui 37/38, Ameliaranne Ekenasio 23/24) Northern Stars 56 (Maia Wilson 32/32, Monica Falkner 14/16, Amorangi Malesala 10/13). 1Q: 16-15, HT: 34-28, 3Q: 52-42


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