Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Tactix win as Mystics stay winless

Tactix 56 Mystics 55
Maria Tutaia of the Mystics shoots. Photo / Getty Images
Maria Tutaia of the Mystics shoots. Photo / Getty Images

The Mystics winless start to the year continued tonight as the star-studded Auckland side crashed to a one-goal defeat to the Tactix in Christchurch.

The match followed a familiar story line to the Mystics' previous outings this season, with the team building a handy lead early on, but were unable to maintain the intensity throughout with error-strewn patches proving their downfall.

The constant chopping and changing of the line-up did not help the Mystics consistency, with coach Debbie Fuller making 11 positional changes throughout the match. A couple of those were injury enforced with the likes of Temalisi Fakahokotau and Nadia Loveday needing some running repairs early on, but many of the changes appeared a bid to inject something new for the sake of it.

While the Tactix have been considered the easy-beats of the competition in recent season, 2016 is proving not to be the case.

They hinted at their potential with a draw against the unbeaten Southern Steel in round two, with their athletic shooting combination of Mwai Kumwenda and Bailey Mes proving difficult for opposition defences to crack.

Tonight's 56-55 win elevated the Canterbury side into third position on the New Zealand conference ladder, with only goal percentage separating them from the second-placed Pulse.

The Tactix offered a glimpse of the threat their attack line poses in the opening stages of the game, scoring the first three goals. But the home side lost their way through the middle stages of the period as they Mystics went on a five-goal run to take an 8-3 lead - a margin they held at the first break.

Despite leading 15-10 heading into the second period, the Mystics would not have felt comfortable given their track record of blowing even bigger leads in the opening rounds.

The visitors made a strong start to the second quarter as defender Anna Harrison forced a couple of early turnovers from Mes, who struggled at times with Harrison's timing and reach over the shot. But unforced errors on attack meant the Mystics were unable to capitalise on these defensive gains.

Looking to change up their attacking dynamic and get the score flowing again, Debbie Fuller introduced 2.04m basketball convert Megan Craig into the match mid-way through the second period in place of Cathrine Tuivaiti.

But Craig, who has just one previous ANZ Championship appearance to her name, did not have the impact Fuller would have hoped as she struggled to get her hands on the ball, adding just one goal before Tuivaiti returned to the match after a five minute interval.

With the Mystics unable to kick-start their attack, the Tactix pegged back a goal by halftime as they trailed 27-23 heading into the third period.

The chopping and changing continued in the third spell for the Mystics, with Fuller making changes to both her midcourt and defensive end.

If viewers were having trouble keeping up with all the swapping of bibs in the Mystics line-up, it seems so too were the players, as the new combinations struggled to gel.

While the Mystics made a string of changes - one subtle change to the Tactix line-up worked to spark the homeside's attack back to life.

Kumwenda, the Tactix Malawian import was pushed out to goal attack late in the third spell, with Mes moving back to goal shoot and away from the ever-present threat of Harrison's long limbs.

The switch-up saw the Tactix level the score at 41-all heading into the final period.

The Mystics reverted back to their starting line-up for the final spell, but they couldn't produce the same first quarter magic, with the scores remaining tight throughout.

A Jess Moulds intercept with just over two minutes left on the clock proved to be the match-winning move for the Tactix, giving the home side a two-goal buffer to put the Mystics into desperate chase mode in the dying stages.

- NZ Herald

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