Netball: Magic blow promising start

By Dana Johannsen

The Steel's Courtney Tairi. Photo / APN
The Steel's Courtney Tairi. Photo / APN

The trip across the Tasman continues to prove troublesome for the Magic, with the defending champions' attacking rhythm once again abandoning them on Australian soil last night.

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty side stumbled to a 12-goal loss to the Thunderbirds in Adelaide, recording their second straight loss after blowing a promising start in which they got a seven-goal jump on the home side courtesy of some brilliant defensive work.

The Magic didn't let up on defence all night, with Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin creating plenty of turnover ball for their side, but their execution on attack dwindled as the game went on as the visitors struggled to maintain their composure. The Thunderbirds put in a determined full-court defensive effort, fiercely contesting every ball.

Magic captain Laura Langman was disappointed her side could not absorb the defensive pressure after starting with such strong resolve.

"Unfortunately it blew out a bit in the end, but if you want to be a top four contender you have to play at this pace for four quarters and we couldn't do that tonight."

After taking on Australian sides for the last few weeks, the Thunderbirds appeared to have forgotten how to play the New Zealand style and were caught out early by the Magic's zone defence as the visitors picked up five intercepts in the opening quarter.

With the Thunderbirds looking confused and disjointed in the opening stages, the Magic raced out to a surprise seven-goal lead as they restricted the home side to just three goals in eight minutes.

That prompted an "injury" time-out from captain Natalie von Bertouch, allowing coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson to give her side a quick refresher course on how to break the Magic's suffocating zone. The Thunderbirds responded immediately, out-scoring the Magic 9-4 over the remaining of the quarter to trail by just one at the first break.

The momentum stayed with the Thunderbirds in the second spell, with Sharni Layton and Rebecca Bulley suffocating the Magic shooters to restict the visitors to just seven goals in the second period. The reward for their tireless efforts really came in the third quarter though, with a frustrated Irene van Dyk kept scoreless for the period, leading to her benching at three-quarter time.

In last night's early game, Jamaican import Jhaniele Fowler shot the Steel into fifth place on the transtasman league ladder after seeing off the Swifts defence in Invercargill.

The 1.98m Fowler, who is the competition's top scorer this season, was once again dominant as she shot all but one of the Steel's 60 goals, after goal attack Jodi Brown had a quiet shooting night on her 32nd birthday. The Steel captain played a strong support role though, doing a power of work up court and firing the ball into Fowler with pinpoint accuracy.

Dwarfed in the circle by the towering Jamaican to the extent it was almost comical, Swifts defenders Sonia Mkoloma and Mo'onia Gerrard battled tirelessly all night but could do little to disrupt the flow of ball into the Steel shooting circle.

Asked after the match what cost her side the game, Gerrard deadpanned "we don't have someone that's seven foot five".

The four-goal win lifted the Steel two places on the competition ladder, overtaking the Central Pulse as New Zealand's second-ranked side after Robyn Broughton's star-studded line-up suffered an ugly 22-goal loss in Melbourne over the weekend.

Steel 60
Swifts 55

Thunderbirds 45
Magic33

- NZ Herald

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