Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Steel secure semifinal spot

haniele Fowler-Reid's shooting stats of 64 from 66 was just short of her league record. Photo / Getty
haniele Fowler-Reid's shooting stats of 64 from 66 was just short of her league record. Photo / Getty

The Southern Steel have secured their place in the ANZ Championship semifinals with four rounds to spare after a 30-goal drubbing of the Tactix in Christchurch.

The 81-51 win pushed the Steel out to an unassailable lead atop the New Zealand conference standings. By securing the top spot on the ladder the Steel are guaranteed a spot in the ANZ Championship semifinals, regardless of the outcome of the New Zealand conference finals.

While they have assured their place in the race for the title, the next four weeks is set to determine the Steel's true credentials, with the Southern franchise facing a difficult run in to the play-offs. They will face three heavyweight Australian sides - the Firebirds, Vixens and Swifts - over the final four rounds, while the ever-improving Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic side should also prove a challenge.

Tonight's win should provide them with a good springboard into those matches, having comprehensively outplayed the Tactix - a side that had the measure of the Steel in their first meeting this season.

The 58-all draw in round two remains the only blip on the Steel's record so far this season. Heading into the game the Steel were still sore about the result, and took to the Tactix with vengeance, threatening several league records in the process.

The Steel's tally of 81 goals was just shy of their previous best of 84, which they notched up against the Tactix last season. Import shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid's impressive shooting stats of 64 from 66 was also just short of her league record of 65 goals, which she achieved twice in 2013.

Hoping to mark skipper Wendy Frew's 100th ANZ Championship appearance in style, the Steel set a cracking pace from the outset, racking up 24 goals in the opening quarter. It took the Tactix 30 minutes of netball to match the Steel's first quarter tally, but by then the visitors had rocketed out to 42 goals.

A 22-12 third quarter effort had the Steel well on track to surpass their record as they took a 64-36 lead at the final change of ends.

But after struggling to break down the Steel's attack all evening, the Tactix began to have some success in forcing the visitors into making errors, making for a much more competitive final quarter and denying the Steel their chance to rewrite the record books once more in the final season of the transtasman league.

In today's other transtasman league match, Adelaide Thunderbirds' caretaker coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell could do little to improve her side's fortunes. The beleaguered club remain winless this season after falling to the West Coast Fever 63-51. It was Keppich-Birrell's first match in charge of the Thunderbirds after taking over from Michelle de Dekker, who departed the club mid-week in curious circumstances.

- NZ Herald

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