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Premiership upset as Steel beat Mystics

Southern Steel ANZ Premiership netball
A win for the Southern Steel over the defending ANZ Premiership champion Mystics. PHOTO: NETBALL NZ/MB PHOTOGRAPHY

Anytime a South Island side defeats an Auckland team it is celebrated long and hard, and this was a big team effort by the Southern Steel.

The Steel scored a 47-43 win over the defending ANZ Premiership champion Northern Mystics in Dunedin on Sunday while posting their second win of the season.


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It was the second upset of the weekend after the Waikato-BOP Magic’s big win over the Central Pulse and despite a last quarter surge from the Mystics, the Steel held on for their best performance of year.

With the loss of Shannon Saunders to a season-ending injury, and Ivari Christie ruled out the Steel had a new-look midcourt with Serina Danaukamakama, a Mystics training partner, making her debut at wing attack while Abby Lawson got a start at goal defence.

Also missing a key player in Grace Nweke, the Mystics lined up with the budding shooting partnership of Hannah Glen (goal shoot) and Filda Vui under the hoop in a settled line-up.

Taking two minutes before the first goal was scored indicated the tone of the match as a real arm-wrestle eventuated through the first half.

With the accuracy missing from both sides, it was a messy start as the ball went back and forth for little reward. In a defence-orientated match, attacking momentum proved elusive with neither side able to find any flow.

Moving to a three-goal lead, the Steel were unable to build on their buffer with Mystics defender Carys Stythe’s long reach causing plenty of problems for Steel shooter Grace Namana.

A string of five straight goals handed the impetus back to the Mystics, who took a slender 11-10 lead into the first break.

Showing grit, resilience and ball retention capabilities, the home side were staunch in holding their ground, and the Mystics at arm’s length, during an absorbing second stanza.

The lack of flow continued and the usually free-flowing Mystics struggled in the face of committed team defence from the Steel where Renee Savai’inaea, Lawson and Taneisha Fifita all prospered.

It was hard work for both teams to thread the ball through court, but the closeness of the score ensured the intensity remained high.

With the lead changing hands several times, it was the Steel who got the vital breakthrough, the shooting combination of Georgia Heffernan and Namana, through good movement and accuracy, getting the upper hand over the attention provided by Phoenix Karaka and Stythe.

Finishing strongly, it was the Steel who were well worth their 23-20 lead heading into the main break.

Strong team defence continued to help the Steel keep their noses in front during the third stanza as the Mystics made several quick changes in personnel and playing positions in a frantic bid to crack the game open.

Leading from the front, Steel captain Kate Heffernan was a towering presence, both on attack and in defence while her young offsider Danaukamakama was steady and unfazed throughout the challenge of her first game at the elite level

In unfamiliar territory, the Steel’s confidence continued to soar as their constant pressure forced the Mystics into rushes of blood and a building roster of errors.

Namana and Georgia Heffernan added the polish with their exploits under the Steel hoop to push the home side out to a 35-30 lead at the last turn.

With the game far from over, the Steel kept their shoulders to the wheel in the run home, surging to an eight-goal lead at one stage as they denied a desperate Mystics any sniff of getting themselves back into the contest.


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