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Mystics in tight win over cross-town rivals

The Mystics have beaten fellow Auckland side, the  Stars in the ANZ Premiership
Plenty of pressure in the Stars shooting circle in their clash with the Mystics in the ANZ Premiership. PHOTO: NETBALL NZ/MB PHOTOGRAPHY

A relieved Northern Mystics made it two-from-two in the Northern Challenge after surviving a late scare for a 51-49 win over the neighbouring Northern Stars in Auckland on Saturday. 

In a significant game for both teams, it was the Mystics, who dug deepest to reignite their season following three straight losses. After posting their first win last week, the Stars were consigned to a losing bonus point, their sixth of the season. 


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Building their win on a dominant 17-9 third quarter, the Mystics were left to negotiate an anxious final 15 minutes as the Stars delivered an strong response, but ultimately coming up just short. The Mystics won the first clash between the pair by five goals in Round 5. 

Injury disruptions to both sides meant a shuffling of line-ups where the absence of shooter Grace Nweke and midcourter Peta Toeava had Tayla Earle slotting in at wing attack and Katie Te Ao, at centre for the Mystics. 

Promoted from training partner to the fulltime squad during the week, Holly Mather, centre, joined her sister Lisa in the Stars midcourt for the injured Mila Reuelu-Buchanan while Tori Kolose got the nod at wing attack. 

After an even start, rising young defender Carys Stythe helped the Mystics gain the impetus with two quick intercepts to give the home side the early edge. 

Stythe and Phoenix Karaka were also influential in shutting down the options to Stars key shooter Maia Wilson, the visitors struggling to make full use of their possession. A string on five straight goals pushed the Mystics out to a 16-13 lead at the first break. 

Multiple changes were made by both sides through the opening stages of the second stanza, including Kayla Johnson and Dani Binks for the Mystics and Emma Thompson for the Stars, resulting in an untidy phase before things settled. 

Stretching out to a five-goal lead, there were promising signs for the home side but with the growing interaction between captain Wilson, and Amorangi Malesala, working her way back from injury, continuing to flourish, the Stars made a late statement. 

With Lisa Mather and Kate Burley providing a non-stop effort on defence, the links on attack fell into place, with Malesala and Wilson getting more ball in their hands under the hoop. The play-making Malesala was effective from range while Wilson finished off the close-range shots. 

Repaying the favour, the Stars, on the back of improved possession, finished with a flourish, five unanswered goals nudging the visitors into a 26-25 lead at the main break. 

The combined defensive efforts of Stythe, Karaka and captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson helped the Mystics turn the game on its head during a dominant third quarter. 

The pressure told on the Stars attack line as the turnover toll mounted, resulting in a growing confidence from the Mystics who had all the momentum with sharp, accurate and fast through-court transition highlighted. 

Shooter Hannah Glen enjoyed the space and quick service she received, revelling under the hoop to stretch the Mystics margin while keeping the Stars to a single digit return in what is traditionally their best quarter. 

Leaving the Stars with a big hole to dig themselves out of, it was the Mystics who held the upper hand when leading 42-35 at the last break. 

The Stars produced a similar defensive response in a thrilling final quarter where Lili Tokaduadua, Burley and Lisa Mather, kept the outcome on a knife-edge as the Mystics lead was slowly eroded. Two big late gains from Karaka proved decisive as helping the Mystics repel a spirited Stars comeback. 


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