Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Tutaia shoots the Mystics to victory

Maria Tutaia of the Mystics.  Photo / Getty Images
Maria Tutaia of the Mystics. Photo / Getty Images

The Magic's search for answers continues.

The Waikato/Bay of Plenty side slumped to an 0-2 record as the Northern Mystics confirmed their place as New Zealand's premier transtasman league side in Hamilton last night.

Despite a gutsy defensive effort from the Magic, the Aucklanders were too good for their derby rivals running out convincing winners.

The Magic's inability to convert the wealth of turnover ball from their defence has heightened doubts over the depth in their attack.

It is the same concern that emerged in their opening-round loss to the Steel, where the Magic turned in a flat and lethargic performance.

They managed to lift their intensity several notches last night in their first appearance at their new venue of Claudelands Arena, but they didn't have the finish on attack to match the powerful Northern Mystics line-up.

Magic coach Noeline Taurua said while she was heartened to see some improvement from last week, their precision on attack is still well off where they need to be.

"We still won good ball at times but were unable to convert it or take it right through to goal, and I think some of the errors that we made were quite unnecessary. We need to be able to execute better," she said.

The Magic's task will not get any easier in the coming weeks, with two tough road trips against the NSW Swifts and Melbourne Vixens over the next two weeks.

Taurua said an intensive debrief process awaits her side this week to address their shortcomings.

"There will be a lot of disappointed people, but we need to pick ourselves up because we have got two huge matches coming up," she said.

With the two sides each 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 few easy openings into 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.

Maria Tutaia - who contributed 31 of the Magic's 47 goals - did an impressive job of taking the heat off Latu, who had a quiet outing.

Magic goal attack Julianna Naoupu also had a productive game, putting up 29 shots, of which she converted 23. 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.

The Auckland side managed to assert themselves more in the second quarter as a slight rejig to their midcourt helped address their service into the shooting circle.

Trailing 25-21 at the long break, the Magic started the third quarter with a fresh resolve, quickly eating their way into the Mystics lead to draw level at 26-all.

That prompted the Mystics to make yet another change to their midcourt, with English import Jade Clarke introduced at wing defence to try to contain Magic playmaker Laura Langman.

With the Mystics tightening up their midcourt defence, they pulled away again towards the end of the third spell, taking a handy 37-32 lead heading into the final period.

- NZ Herald

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