Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Full court defence does trick

Mystic sharshooter Catherine Latu. Photo / Natalie Slade
Mystic sharshooter Catherine Latu. Photo / Natalie Slade

Mystics 52
Fever 45

A previously unheard of defensive pairing - one a genuine rookie, the other a familiar face with a new name - helped the Northern Mystics fend off their first Australian challenger of the year in Waitakere tonight.

The Auckland side overran Norma Plummer's West Coast Fever 52-45 in a tense, and at times heated, battle.

With the Fever boasting two big scoring threats in Australian internationals Catherine Cox and Caitlin Bassett, it was always going to take a huge defensive effort to ward off the Fever.

Step up Jess Moulds, who, in her third ANZ Championship start, was handed the tough task of matching up on Bassett, and Anna Harrison, nee Scarlett, kept an eye on Cox.

The Silver Fern wed long-time partner Craig Harrison in her home town of Karamea on the South Island's West Coast on Friday, arriving back in Auckland in tonight's game.

The pair did an impressive job of containing the much-vaunted Fever shooting circle, limiting Cox to just six goals from 11 attempts in 60 minutes of netball, to pile the pressure on Bassett.

The Mystics coaching team, which was bulked up by the inclusion of former Australian shooter Megan Dehn - who is serving as a technical advisor for the Australian clashes - had obviously done their home work on the Perth team.

With the Fever boasting two big scoring threats in Bassett and Cox, the Mystics had a clear strategy of cutting off the supply chain in to the shooting circle by applying relentless pressure right through the court.

The home side employed a zone defence, pushing the Fever players wide to isolate them on the fringes.

As a result the Fever never looked comfortable moving the ball through court, pushing passes wide.

When the ball did get in to the circle, Harrison and Moulds did a superb job of confusing the space for the feeders, ensuring the Cox and Bassett partnership could never gel.

Typically, former Diamonds coach Norma Plummer was not shy about voicing her displeasure over the officiating, describing the umpiring as "crap".

Much the same sentiments then that the Kiwi coaches feel when they cross the ditch.

Mystics coach Debbie Fuller said: "I think whenever your team is getting heavily penalised, you have to adjust. You should know by the end of the first quarter what the umpires are calling and the players on court need to be able to play different styles and adjust."

The Mystics made an impressive start to the match, leaping out to a 6-0 lead after as many minutes, before the Fever were able to settle in to some semblance of rhythm to fight their way back to trail by four at the first break.

The home side stretched it out again to lead 25-17 at halftime, before the now familiar third quarter fightback from Plummer's sides came.

With only a small air pocket of breathing space heading in to the final turn, the Mystics coaching staff again made a series of bold substitution decisions.

They opted to make changes to all thirds of the court.

Charlotte Kight was introduced at goal defence, with Harrison moving back to goal keep, English import Jade Clarke came on at centre, forcing George in to wing attack, and Grace Rasmussen out to goal attack, with Maria Tutaia watching the final quarter from the bench.

The changes brought more pace to the attack, with George and Clarke dynamic through the middle, while Rasmussen opened up more space for Latu under the goal. Latu finished with a fine 31 goals from 32 attempts, while Bassett managed 39 from her 41 shots.

- NZ Herald

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