Netball: Magic tumble to Swifts in ANZ Championship final

By Mark Geenty

The New South Wales Swifts confirmed their trans-Tasman netball superiority tonight as another Australian trip proved a bridge too far for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.

The Swifts finished strongly to win the final 65-56 for their ninth consecutive victory to be crowned deserved champions of the inaugural trans-Tasman competition at Sydney's Acer Arena.

A radar-like shooting performance by Silver Ferns shooter Irene van Dyk, who shot 45 out of 46, wasn't enough for the Magic who trailed throughout. Two goals was the closest they got early in the final quarter.

Led by their own shooting star Catherine Cox, the Swifts survived that anxious moment when they led 51-49 to draw clear, after holding a 34-28 advantage at halftime. Cox shot 41 out of 45.

The margin blew out in the final 10 minutes as the Magic, boasting six internationals to the Swifts' three, wilted with errors at key moments.

The visitors were left rueing their 56-57 loss to the Swifts in the major semifinal which decided who would host the decider.

No New Zealand side won in Australia this year, with the Magic 0-3 away from home and losing all three of their matches against the Swifts.

It was more trans-Tasman heartache for standout defender Casey Williams, Joline Henry, Laura Langman, Maria Tutaia and van Dyk who were part of the Silver Ferns who lost 38-42 to Australia in last year's world championships final.

Officials had hoped the crowd might challenge the world record for a netball match -- 14,339 at the same stadium in a trans-Tasman test in 2004.

Still, the biggest domestic netball match of the season drew 12,099 fans, a cauldron for the Magic whose block of travelling supporters rattled cowbells and did their best to be heard.

The Swifts went in as favourites and played like it in the opening stanzas against the nervy visitors.

Magic captain Amigene Metcalfe threw a loose pass to Langman for the first turnover and Henry passed to no-one as the Swifts raced to a 7-2 early lead.

It quickly became a Cox and van Dyk shootout, and both went goal for goal with a perfect 12 from 12 in the first quarter.

The Swifts maintained their early advantage to lead 19-14 at the first break, moving Magic coach Noeline Taurua to swap centre Metcalfe and wing attack Langman.

But the Swifts, with international centre-in-waiting Kimberlee Green giving great service to her shooters, stretched their lead to eight.

Cox and Williams had an epic battle, with Williams giving her opponent more headaches as the match went on.

One contest for possession ended with the pair crashing over the hoardings and into the Magic bench.

In the battle of the shooters Cox was first to miss, with van Dyk going to halftime with 22 from 22 as the Swifts led by six.

Taurua made her second switch after halftime, shifting goal attack van Dyk to her more accustomed goal shoot spot in a swap with Maria Tutaia.

It seemed to pay dividends as the lob passes kept finding van Dyk and the Magic midcourt got some rhythm going.

A brilliant Williams intercept switched momentum and consecutive goals narrowed the gap to 42-40 midway through the third quarter.

But the Swifts stepped up the pace again and the Magic trailed 45-50 heading into the final 15 minutes.

Magic captain Amigene Metcalfe said the scoreline was a fair reflection of how the teams performed.

"We did put in a good effort but Swifts are a great side and they thoroughly deserved that win," she said.

"We just made more errors tonight, that's been the story of our season really, not putting in a full 60-minute performance.

"We had some good moments but it just wasn't consistent enough."

Van Dyk agreed the Swifts were relentless and her side didn't capitalise on their occasional opportunities to close the margin.

She was pleased with her own performance, particularly in an unfamiliar role.

"Not too bad, running out at goal attack and then going back to where I know what I'm doing (goal shoot)."

Swifts captain Cox was emotional after her team claimed the inaugural title.

"A lot of people have asked what it is about the Swifts this year. We are genuinely just a very very happy team."

- NZPA

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