Northern Mystics coach Debbie Fuller said she wanted to see her side to make a statement this weekend and they certainly delivered one as they beat the Melbourne Vixens 49-45 in Australia this afternoon.
The Mystics improved to six wins from eight games and showed they are one of the elite teams in this year's transtasman netball competition as a combination of innovative defence and accurate shooting guided them home.
Throw in the experience of Temepara George at wing attack and the Mystics have the look of a deep line-up that could make a splash in the playoffs this season like they did last year when they progressed to the grand final.
In between all the impressive individual efforts, Cathrine Latu continued her deadly shooting season as the Mystics consolidated their place in the top four.
The 1.89m goal shoot hadn't missed a shot since round three, but in round eight today she lost her streak of perfection as she failed to convert an attempt in the fourth quarter although she maintained her reputation as one of the sharpest shooters in the league as she drained 23/24.
She has missed only four shots all season and the Silver Fern had impressive support from goal attack Maria Tutaia, who nailed 26/34 and shot well from long-range as she so often does, although she missed a couple of vital attempts in the fourth quarter as the pressure levels went up.
Mystics goal keep Anna Harrison (nee Scarlett) was in dominant form as she tipped a team-high five deflections and made life tough for the Vixens shooters as she blocked a couple of shots with her impressive vertical leap, while her fellow defenders physically gave her a lift to help her up.
The Karamea-raised 29-year-old, who also leads the competition in intercepts, worked well with her defensive partner Kayla Cullen as the youngster grabbed two intercepts.
Cullen left the game mid-way through the fourth quarter with a calf problem, which saw Jess Moulds take the court at goal keep as Harrison pushed out to the goal defence spot, but Moulds had no issues giving Scarlett a rugby-lineout-like lift to help her block a couple of shots late in the game.
The victory was important for the Mystics, who were yet to win across the Tasman this season heading in to this game, having suffered a disappointing loss to the Queensland Firebirds on the Gold Coast two weeks ago.
The game had the feel of a finals match as 51 contact penalties were called in the first half during a physical encounter that both sides warmed in to.
Playing at home has provided the Vixens with an extra lift this year as they have pulled off impressive come-from-behind wins over the Magic and the Firebirds but as the Mystics stretched the lead to as many as seven during the final stanza they closed out the contest well.
The Vixens pulled back to within four with two minutes left but with ice running through her veins, Harrison pulled off another remarkable block, which ensured the Mystics would take two competition points with them back to New Zealand.
Next week, the Mystics host the bottom-of-the-table Canterbury Tactix in Auckland, while the Vixens meet the NSW Swifts in Melbourne.
Northern Mystics 49 (Maria Tutaia 26/34, Cathrine Latu 23/24) Melbourne Vixens 45 (Tegan Caldwell 20/23, Karyn Howarth 13/15, Kate Beveridge 12/15) 1Q: 13-10 HT: 24-23 3Q: 38-34
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel