Canterbury Tactix captain Maree Bowden threw the ball in the air in delight as the final whistle blew on her side's 54-51 ANZ Championship netball win over the NSW Swifts tonight.
She had good reason to. Her side had just recovered from a second-quarter slump to record a rare win - a week after a 20-goal drubbing at the hands of the West Coast Fever - in front of a happy home crowd of 3000-plus at CBS Arena in Christchurch.
The Tactix had won just eight of 23 games at home in the past but came out firing in their first home game of the competition, forcing early turnovers against an out-of-sync Swifts side to lead 15-11 at quarter-time.
The pressure was on Tactix shooters Ellen Halpenny and Jo Harten. After a 60 per cent shooting performance in round one, the pair found themselves up against one of the competition's toughest defensive duos in Sonia Mkoloma and Mo'onia Gerrard. But they proved they were up to the challenge, finding space and their range.
Under pressure, the Swifts changed their defensive line at quarter-time, moving Gerrard out of the circle to wing defence and Mkoloma to goal defence and replacing her with April Letton. And it was a change which paid dividends, with the tightening up of the Tactix shooting circle resulting in more turnover ball which the Swifts' shooters Susan Prattley and Carla Dziwoki turned into points as their team mounted a fightback.
The visitors, who lost to the Adelaide Thunderbirds in round one, sneaked back into the game, drawing even at 18-18 with the Tactix guilty of not looking after possession, while their opposition started to find their rhythm.
And they got on a roll, shooting out to a 28-24 lead by halftime.
The Tactix turned to the bench in the third quarter, with changes in each circle. Anna Thompson replaced Halpenny at the shooting end and Anna Galvan replaced Jo Tripp at the defence end. The changes paid off straight away as Tactix scored seven goals in a row.
A time out for an ankle injury for the tireless Swifts' centre Kimberlee Green allowed the Swifts to regroup, but the frantic pace continued and a tense battle ensued.
Although errors started to creep into the Tactix game, it didn't have a big impact on the scoreboard. At three-quarter time, the Swifts led 39-38.
A couple of early turnovers in the final quarter extended the Swifts' lead to three but the Tactix weren't done with and scored three goals in a row to grab the initiative.
The second-half injection of Kiley Hikawai in the mid-court was a deciding factor for the Tactix as she kept her shooters fed, and Harten made the most of the opportunities - finishing at 83 per cent.
For Tactix captain Bowden, it was a result she was happy with but she knew there was plenty more to come, including a tough challenge from the Southern Steel in round three.
The Swifts head home in search of consistency and take on a Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic also searching for a first win of the season.By Erin Tasker