Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Hard-fought win for Magic

Magic captain Laura Langman. Photo / Getty Images.
Magic captain Laura Langman. Photo / Getty Images.

Magic 56
Vixens 51

Thunderbirds 64
Mystics 48

The Magic have beaten the Vixens and the premiership curse, as the defending champions all but confirmed their place in the play-offs with a hard-fought win over the visiting Melbourne team.

It is one of the more curious records in the transtasman league - in all six seasons the title holders have never made the finals the following year. But the Magic, the first New Zealand side to lift the ANZ Championship trophy are now the first team to banish the so-called curse of the premiers.

Fittingly it was also Vixens that the Magic beat in last year's grand final to claim the crown, although last night's 56-51 win didn't quite live up to the drama and intensity of their come from behind win in the 2012 title decider in Melbourne.

After getting their noses in front late in the first quarter the Magic never relinquished their lead, but the Vixens remained hard on their heels all night, with the game hanging in the balance until the final minute and a half.

The result didn't alter the standings on the points table, with the Magic drawing level on points with the Vixens, but with a slightly stronger goal percentage, Melbourne side maintain their position in third.

While their place in the final four is looking secure, Noeline Taurua will be concerned with her side's turnover count after the Magic coughed up the ball 21 times in last night's match. For that, much of the credit can go to the Vixens defence, with the visitors' piling on the pressure right through the court. Elissa Macleod, perhaps one of the most under-rated centres in the competition, did a particularly good job of shutting down the Magic's go-to girl on attack, Laura Langman.

The Magic captain said she was pleased with the way her side were able to absorb the Vixens' pressure on defence and grind out the win.

In today's early game between the Northern Mystics and Adelaide Thunderbirds had the makings one of the greatest upsets of the transtasman league, before it became one of the greatest capitulations.

On the back of a season of discontent and an injury list as long as Carla Borrego's arm, the Mystics weren't expected to offer much resistance to the championship-leading Thunderbirds, particularly across the Tasman.

But the bottom of the table Auckland side shocked the hosts with a dominant first half performance, in which the likes of some of the competitions stars in Borrego, Natalie von Bertouch and Sharni Layton were upstaged by virtual unknowns like Jessica Bourke, Erikana Pederson and Bailey Mes.

Playing with the freedom of a side that has nothing to lose, the Mystics produced arguably their best 30-minutes of netball of the season to take a 28-23 lead at halftime in Adelaide tonight. But when the inevitable second half fight-back came from the Thunderbirds, the Mystics had no answer, falling meekly to the fast-finishing home side. The 64-48 win ensured the Thunderbirds have the minor premiership sewn up with one round remaining.

In the other match over the weekend, the Firebirds survived a late scare against the Swifts, edging out the NSW side 52-48 in Brisbane to firm up their hopes of finishing in the top two.

- NZ Herald

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