Northern Mystics 47
Waikato/BOP Magic 41
The Northern Mystics have confirmed their place as New Zealand's premier transtasman league team, edging out the embattled Magic in Hamilton tonight.
The loss sees the Waikato/Bay of Plenty side slump to an 0-2 record for the season, raising real questions over the depth in their team.
It was hoped a new, uncompromising approach to the standards they set at training would translate in to that "extra five percent" captain Laura Langman reckons her side need to end their title drought in 2012.
But the Magic looked flat and lethargic in their opening performance as they were caught off guard by a fired up Steel line-up.
They managed to lift their intensity several notches last night in their first appearance at their new Hamilton venue of Claudelands Arena, but they just didn't have the attacking depth to match the powerful Northern Mystics line-up.
With each side boasting one of the league's most dominant shooters in the Magic's Irene van Dyk and Cathrine Latu of the Mystics, both teams targeted their defence on shutting down those scoring threats.
They had just the personnel to do so, with the Magic's star defensive pairing of Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin charged with containing Latu, while the Mystics had an all-Silver Ferns pairing of their own in Kayla Cullen and Anna Scarlett to match up on van Dyk.
The uncompromising defence in both shooting circles meant there were very few easy openings in to the circle and the long balls that are usually cornerstones of the Mystics and Magic attacking play barely featured.
With the battle under the goal in both circles particularly brutal, it was the goal attacks that stepped up and took a dominant shooting role.
Latu was kept particularly quiet, putting up just eight shots in each half.
But her shooting partner Maria Tutaia did an impressive job of taking the heat off Latu, contributing 31 of the Magic's 47 goals.
Magic goal attack Julianna Naoupu also had an extremely productive game putting up putting up 29 shots, of which she converted 23 of them. Van Dyk added just 17 goals in her three quarters, before being replaced for the final spell by rookie shooter Arahi Wall.
A rugged opening quarter, in which both sides tested the umpires with what they could get away with, set the tone for an extremely scrappy match. A Latu goal right on the whistle gave the Mystics a 12-11 lead at the first break.
Trailing 25-21 at the long break, the Magic started the third quarter with a fresh resolve, quickly eating their way in to the Mystics lead to draw level at 26-all. That prompted a Mystics time out to arrest the slide, and the re-introduction of English import Jade Clarke in to the midcourt.
Clarke became the third player used at wing defence after Charlotte Kight and Portia Woodman, to try and contain Laura Langman, who was moved up the court to wing attack for three quarters of the match, taking on the feeding duties.
With the Mystics tightening up their midcourt defence, they pulled away again towards the end of the third spell, to take a handy 37-32 lead heading in to the final period.
Needing to inject something new in to her attack end, Magic coach Noeline Taurua made the bold decision of benching van Dyk for the final spell.
While Wall had a nervous introduction to ANZ Championship netball, it took a while for the Mystics defenders to adjust to the presence of a new shooting style and as a result the Magic produced a mini-rally.
But once the Mystics defence got their head around the changes they were able to close out the win.