Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Magic suffer first loss of season

Leana de Bruin of the Magic and Irene van Dyk of the Pulse battle for the ball. Photo / Christine Cornege
Leana de Bruin of the Magic and Irene van Dyk of the Pulse battle for the ball. Photo / Christine Cornege

The Magic have been dealt their first loss of the transtasman league season, falling to the Pulse in an extra-time thriller in Hamilton.

Having dropped their past two games, it was a desperately needed win for the Pulse, with another loss likely to have been the knock-out blow for their season.

With the scores tied at 45-all at the end of regulation time, a couple of clutch plays from the Pulse in the 14-minute overtime period decided the match in their favour. Veteran midcourter Joline Henry was particularly influential down the stretch _ her intercept with three minutes on the clock ultimately ended the Magic's hopes of a fightback.

On paper the Pulse appeared a good match for the unbeaten Magic side, with captain Katrina Grant more comfortable against moving shooters of the ilk of Jo Harten than she is against the taller, holding shooters in the league, while Henry was expected to prove a good test for Grace Rasmussen _ the stand-out midcourter over the opening five rounds of the competition.

And you could not find more experienced shooting combination in the league than Irene van Dyk and Donna Wilkins to take on the Magic's all-star defensive pairing of Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin.

It is the first time Kopua has squared off against her Silver Ferns' teammate in a competitive match, with the pair having played in the same team for over a decade. Kopua joined the Magic as a teenager in 2003 _ around the same time van Dyk linked up with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty franchise after beginning her career in New Zealand at the Capital Shakers in the old domestic league.

Having linked up with her hometown franchise this year, the round six match-up between the top two Kiwi sides was highly anticipated because of the Kopua-van Dyk match-up.

The battle certainly lived up to its billing with the two stars bringing out the best in one another. At one point early on in the second quarter the pair collided, with van Dyk tumbling out of court, but the veteran shooter got her own back later in the match.

Heading into the match the Magic had lost only two of the 20 quarters of netball they have played this year.

That tally grew after just 15 minutes of play in Hamilton with the visitors outclassing the Magic early on, having clearly done a lot of homework on the attacking structures Julie Fitzgerald has put in place at the franchise. The Pulse leapt to a 5-0 lead after four minutes as the Magic struggled to get the ball into their shooters.

A couple of mistakes from the Pulse, allowed the Magic to level the score at 6-all after 10 minutes, but a missed shot from Ellen Halpenny in the final 90 seconds gave the Pulse the opportunity to stretch three goals clear at the first break.

The Magic responded strongly in the second period, as their attack end began to find better rhythm and ensured they made the most of the turnover ball coming from their defence end to take a 23-21 lead at halftime.

The Pulse rallied again in the third period though, frustrating the Magic on attack to limit them to just 10 goals for the quarter, whilst scoring 12 of their own to level the score heading into the final period. After the final 15 minutes the two sides still could not be separated.

Pulse 56
Magic 53

- NZ Herald

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