Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Mystics lose their cool as Aussie visitors storm to win

Mystics 44 Fever 54
Mystics' Kayla Cullen and Fevers Andrea Gilmore in action. Photo / Michael Bradley
Mystics' Kayla Cullen and Fevers Andrea Gilmore in action. Photo / Michael Bradley

Another week, another two points gone begging for the Northern Mystics.

Following last week's embarrassing late lapse against the Steel, the Mystics produced another three quarter performance, this time against the West Coast Fever tonight, blowing a prime opportunity to notch up their first win over an Australian team since 2014.

The Mystics outshone the ragged Fever in the opening half, before the visitors found their rhythm in the third spell following the unlikely introduction of 1.92m shooter Kate Beveridge at wing attack. But with the visitors holding a narrow 37-36 lead into the final turn, the Mystics were still in with a very good sniff.

Needing poise, control and calm over the final 15 minutes, instead the Mystics delivered low percentage plays, ill-discipline and panicked passes to allow the Fever to run out convincing 54-44 winners.

Last week's debutants Holly Fowler and Fa'amu Ioane returned to the Mystics starting line-up tonight, alongside fellow rookie Megan Craig, who was a surprise inclusion in the starting seven.

With the 2.04m basketball convert still coming to grips with netball, it was a big call to throw Craig into the mix so early in the season.

It was a bigger call still to keep her on for 55 minutes of the match, having averaged around five goals a quarter, with a conversion rate of 65 per cent.

Her inexperience was obvious at the opening exchanges, with Craig lacking the footwork to get free of Fever defender Courtney Bruce, and when she did get her hands on the ball for the first time there was too much footwork going on, as the youngster was called for stepping.

It took 10 minutes for Craig to net her first goal, placing extra pressure on skipper Maria Tutaia to carry the shooting load.

But while the Mystics attack struggled to kick into gear, the much-vaunted Fever shooting combination of Natalie Medhurst and Caitlin Bassett was also floundering. The Australian Diamonds pairing struggled to find their connections, with Temalisi Fakahokotau and 18-year-old Holly Fowler combining brilliantly to limit the Fever to just 10 goals to the Mystics' 12 in the opening spell.

The long limbs of Anna Harrison at wing defence also proved helpful in slowing the Fever attack, with 1.70m midcourter Verity Simmons struggling to sight Bassett in the circle over the Silver Ferns defender.

With Simmons battling, the Fever introduced 1.92m shooter Kate Beveridge at wing attack just before halftime. While the Mystics maintained a two-goal lead at halftime, Beveridge had a noticeable impact in her few minutes on court before the break, helping the Fever peg back a four-goal deficit to just two heading into the third spell.

The momentum stayed with the visitors following the break, with Beveridge helping settle the Fever attack and reducing some of workload of Medhurst, who looked frustrated by Fowler's ability to match her for speed.

After getting their noses in front, the Fever never looked back, notching up another convincing win following their opening round demolition of the Thunderbirds last week.

- NZ Herald

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