Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: Magic fend off Mystics

Julie Corletto of the Mystics (R) attempts to get the ball off Khao Watts of the Magic. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Julie Corletto of the Mystics (R) attempts to get the ball off Khao Watts of the Magic. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Magic have rather gingerly moved into the box seat to secure a place in the transtasman league play-offs after fending off a spirited Northern Mystics side in Auckland tonight.

They waited for their last home game to do so, but the Mystics finally rediscovered their confidence and flair on attack, producing some stunning passages of play to frustrate the Magic's all-star defensive line-up of Leana de Bruin and Casey Kopua.

With the Magic unable to amass their usual haul of turnover ball, the Mystics pushed the visitors through the first three quarters, even taking the lead briefly at 38-37 just before the third quarter break.

But the Mystics came unstuck in the final quarter, as their fitness concerns in the defensive end returned to haunt them, with both star import Julie Corletto (knee) and Silver Fern Kayla Cullen (calves) unable to run out the match.

With the Mystics forced to field an inexperienced defensive line of Jessica Bourke, Malia Paseka and Hayley Saunders over the final 15 minutes, the Magic attack took advantage, finding much easier passage into super shooter Irene van Dyk to push out the scoreline out to double figures.

Traditionally, meetings between the two neighbouring rivals has produced tight, intense clashes _ the Mystics edged the Magic by one-goal to make the grand final in 2011, the Magic returned the favour in last year's preliminary final by ousting the Auckland side in extra time to book their spot in the decider.

Tonight wasn't expected to be one of those games.

Lying dead last on the ANZ Championship ladder, the Mystics have been been awful all year, suffering a string of ugly losses in a season that has been overshadowed by injury and off-court drama.

With the Magic sitting fourth in the standings and closing in on a sixth straight play-offs appearance, it was thought the defending champions would be too slick and polished for the Mystics rabble.

But with their opportunities to lift themselves off the foot of the ladder fast running out, the home side rediscovered their creative spark that has been missing for most of the season.

After four seasons watching on from the bench, Bailey Mes once again made the most of her opportunity to start in place of out-of-form shooter Cathrine Latu, impressing with her athleticism in the goal circle. Mes was stunning in the air, out-leaping star Silver Ferns defensive duo Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin to pull in some brilliant long bombs, as well as collect seven rebounds.

Feeding off the confidence of their shooting end, the Mystics were energetic of defence, doing all they could to disrupt the Magic's flow through the court.

Every time the Magic looked like they were about to break away from the Mystics, taking a lead of five of six goals, the home side managed to come up with an inspirational passage of play to rein their opposition back in.

But when the Magic opened the fourth quarter with a 6-1 run, the Mystics had run out of replies.

Magic 60
Mystics 50

- NZ Herald

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