Netball: Magic charge into top four with close win

By Dana Johannsen

Mystics' Temepara George is airborne against the Magic. Photo / SNPA
Mystics' Temepara George is airborne against the Magic. Photo / SNPA

Magic 48
Mystics 46

It was a case of kill or be killed.

The Magic continued their remarkable winning run, charging in to the top four for the first time this season with a convincing win over the Northern Mystics in Waitakere tonight.

In the process the Waikato/Bay of Plenty side deposed their neighbouring rivals from the top spot in the ANZ Championship ladder.

In a fixture in which the post-season hopes of both teams hinge, there was never going to be a way to balance the needs of both sides.

While the Mystics' place in the top four is all but guaranteed, tonight's loss may now force Debbie Fuller's talent-laden side on a post-season trek to Australia where the struggles of New Zealand teams are well-documented.

Tonight's high stakes match was nothing new for the Magic, who have become accustomed to their sudden-death plight.

After opening their season with an 0-4 run, losing has not been an option since round five.

Securing six straight wins put the Magic back into the play-offs frame, but you could argue the Magic haven't faced any top-four calibre sides during their winning streak.

The clash was crucial then to establishing their title credentials.

While just two goals separated the two powerhouse Kiwi teams in the end, in reality the Magic always looked to be in control of the contest.

They led 27-22 at halftime, extending that lead out to six heading in to the final turn.

Through the desperate efforts of the Mystics defence the game closed up in the final five minutes, but the Magic's composure proved superior down the stretch.

Knocked from their top perch, the Mystics need to win their final two matches to remain in the top two, which carries an extra life in the play-offs. But with their goal percentage well down on their Australian rivals, their hopes of finishing in the top spot look to have been dashed.

With the smothering abilities of the Magic defence, the Mystics struggled to find their attacking rhythm from the outset.

Conscious of the range Magic defenders Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin are capable of covering, the Mystics were hesitant with their feeding in to the circle, struggling to get good service in to Cathrine Latu.

The Mystics' key strike weapon could only manage just two goals in the first quarter, and while Maria Tutaia stepped up to assume the role of dominant shooter, the interplay around the goal circle looked strained.

Down the other end of the court the Magic were having no problems sighting their shooting machine, Irene van Dyk, with the dynamic Laura Langman getting herself in to good circle-edge feeding position.

With the Magic finding a good early rhythm, the visitors took a handy 15-11 at the break, prompting a re-think in the Mystics defensive end. Jess Moulds was introduced at goal-keep, pushing Anna Harrison to goal defence and Kayla Cullen on to the wing.

But the trio struggled to upset the Magic's flow, with goal attack Julianna Naoupu doing an impressive job of opening up the circle.

Trailing 27-22 at halftime, the Mystics made further changed in the midcourt, but they were unable to match the Magic's clinical execution.

The Melbourne Vixens clinched another thrilling come-from-behind victory, defeating the West Coast Fever 50-49 yesterday.

The Vixens surrendered a five-goal lead midway through the final quarter but rallied as the lead changed hands repeatedly before goal shooter Karyn Howarth produced the winning goal with 28 seconds left.

Adelaide Thunderbirds have climbed to second on the ladder with a record-setting 62-35 drubbing of fellow finals aspirant NSW Swifts.

The Thunderbirds completely dominated, leading by seven, 16 and 23 at the three changes at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

- NZ Herald

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