Magic 53 Pulse 49
The Magic narrowly avoided a potentially season-ending loss in Hamilton last night, edging out the Central Pulse in the final three minutes of their round eight transtasman league clash.
Needing the win to regain their place in the top four and keep pace with the heavyweight Australian sides, the defending champions started poorly in the first half with their lack of cohesion on attack that has plagued them in their past two losses resurfacing.
Trailing 29-24 at halftime, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side fought back strongly in the third quarter but did not hit the lead for the first time in the match until the final five minutes of the game. An error from replacement wing defence Jodi Tod-Elliott looked to have killed the home side's momentum soon after, but the Pulse inexplicably lost their nerve in the dying minutes, with the Magic scoring the last five goals of the match.
A relieved Magic captain Laura Langman praised the fighting qualities of her side as they avenged their one-goal loss to the Pulse in round six.
"We had to weather a storm, the Pulse are really hitting some form and they're definitely a top four contender. But we showed massive heart out there and really kept our composure,'' she said.
While the win elevated the Magic back into fourth spot on the ANZ Championship ladder, just ahead of the Southern Steel on goal percentage, there are still concerns over their form after last night's patchy display.
Magic coach Noeline Taurua has some serious thinking to do about her combinations, with goal attack and wing attack still proving problematic positions. After a five-week lay-off with an elbow injury, midcourt utility Jess Tuki returned to the starting line-up last night but struggled to find her connection with her shooters, committing a string of turnovers.
Shooter Ellen Halpenny was also expensive early on, but seemed to find her rhythm after Khao Watts was introduced off the bench at halftime.
Trailing by five at halftime, the third quarter started ominously for the Magic with a held ball on their first possession giving the Pulse the opportunity to stretch their lead out to seven goals. But after the shaky start the Magic managed to regain their composure on attack, with the addition of Watts in the midcourt adding much more stability.
Finding better accuracy with their feeding into the circle, the Magic's turnover rate slowed markedly in the third spell and they drew level at 35-all with three minutes left to set up a tense finale.