Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Magic crash Oz party in fine style

Waikato/Bay of Plenty champion side put fallout from Fever match behind them to post big win over Tactix.

Tactix player Jane Watson (right) contests the ball with the Magic's Irene van Dyk in Tauranga last night. Photo / Alan Gibson
Tactix player Jane Watson (right) contests the ball with the Magic's Irene van Dyk in Tauranga last night. Photo / Alan Gibson

Magic 65 Tactix 45
The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic have broken up the all-Australian party at the top of the transtasman league ladder, returning from their bye week to inflict a heavy loss on the Tactix in Tauranga last night.

With emotion in the camp running high following the fallout from their loss to the Fever in Perth two weeks ago, the round four bye probably came at the right time for the Magic, who took the opportunity to reflect, refresh and refocus their game plan. The wins lifts them to third on the table, equal on points with the Melbourne Vixens and fractionally ahead on goal percentage. The Queensland Firebirds and the Adelaide Thunderbirds head the standings.

But with last night's match pitting two sides with a vast gulf in experience and class against one another, it is difficult to get a proper gauge of whether the Magic are really back on track or if they will crumble once again when they come up against the might of the Australian teams.

Magic captain Laura Langman said while she was happy with the win, her side still have a couple of wrinkles to iron out on attack.

"Coming off the bye we were wary of being a bit rusty, so we were pretty pleased to have a very good start," she said. "Our timing is still out just a wee bit, so we need to go back and look at that, because when we let the ball go we play good netball."

Although the scoreline may suggest otherwise, the Tactix did a solid job of putting the Magic attack under pressure, disrupting their rhythm and cutting off the easy ball into Irene van Dyk. But any ball they turned over was often won straight back by the Magic defence, with the intimidating presence of Silver Fern pairing Leana de Bruin and Casey Kopua in the circle making the Tactix hesitant with their passing.

In an effort to shut down the Tactix' key scoring weapon Jo Harten, the Magic opted to start Kopua back at goal-keep - a position she was once renowned for before she found a home out at goal defence in both the Magic and Silver Fern dress.

Kopua did a good job of getting under the skin on Harten, restricting the English international to just four goals in the first quarter as the Magic surged to a commanding 17-8 lead in the first break.

The game could have taken a steep turn for the worse right there for the Tactix, but to the visitors' credit they competed well in the second period, continuing to disrupt the Magic's flow on attack, while improving their own execution, to outscore the home side 15-14 for the period.

While the Magic's 31-23 halftime lead was by no means comfortable, coach Noeline Taurua opted to take a punt on rookie midcourter Nadia Loveday in the second half, introducing the youngster at wing attack for her ANZ Championship debut.

The addition of Loveday - one of the Magic's development players - helped open up the attack, with her confidence to let the ball go impressing her captain.

"She has great vision and she just lets that ball go first time, which I think the defenders aren't always expecting," said Langman.

Finding better fluency on attack, the Magic cut loose in the third period capitalising on the wealth of turnover ball to be 49-31 up going into the final period.

- NZ Herald

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