Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Magic pull off victory over Thunderbirds

The Magic team celebrate after winning. Photo / Christine Cornege
The Magic team celebrate after winning. Photo / Christine Cornege

They've had their backs against the wall all season, excelling when the pressure came on.

And the Magic once again proved the masters of pressure netball tonight, pulling off a stunning 49-48 victory over the Adelaide Thunderbirds in tonight's minor semifinal in Hamilton.

Trailing for much of the second half, the Magic had to scrap for every goal just to stay in touch of the Thunderbirds.

And when the intensity ramped up in the final five minutes, the Magic pounced with rookie wing defence Elias Shadrock coming up with an intercept that allowed the home side to level the match at 47-all. In the frantic final two minutes that ensued, the Magic were the ones that maintained their poise and composure to advance through to the preliminary final for the fifth straight year.

The Magic will battle it out with the Northern Mystics in Auckland next week for the remaining spot in the title decider against the Vixens.

The showdown will be a repeat of last year's preliminary final, when the Mystics edged out the Magic by one-goal to book a grand final date with the Firebirds.

The Magic may have been 17 goals better than the Thunderbirds two weeks ago, but tonight's rematch in Hamilton was always going to be a tighter encounter.

The Adelaide side were dirty on themselves for their lacklustre performance in that match, and privately they seethed they were undone by the umpiring - a tough claim to substantiate when they lost by such a heavy margin.

But tonight they certainly looked more comfortable with having one New Zealand and one Australian umpire officiating the proceedings, as they returned to their more confrontational style of defence.

The Magic had the visitors rattled early on, with the Thunderbirds coughing up the ball on their very first possession with Casey Williams proving the spoiler. With suffocating through-court defence, there were many more turnovers to follow for the Magic, as the midcourt worked hard to set up good ball for Williams and de Bruin at the back.

Irene van Dyk and Julianna Naoupu ensured the Magic made the most of their dominance in possession, shooting at 100% for the first spell, which saw the home side take what appeared a commanding 15-7 lead at the first break.

But the momentum swung massively in the second period, as the Thunderbirds piled the pressure on the home side and the Magic attack end that had functioned so well in the opening period fell to pieces.

Some cynical transition defence from the visitors didn't help the Magic's cause, as the home side's progress through court was halted dramatically.

The Thunderbirds levelled the score at 21-all with five minutes remaining, before taking a 26-23 lead at halftime.

It was expected with the change of ends, and umpires, the momentum would swing again in the third period. But the Thunderbirds maintained their hold on the match, taking a 39-38 lead heading in to the final turn.

- NZ Herald

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