Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Late surge snatches victory for Magic

Fa'amu Ioane of the Skycity Mystics in action against Waikato/BOP Magic player Jamie-Lee Price. Photo / Nick Reed
Fa'amu Ioane of the Skycity Mystics in action against Waikato/BOP Magic player Jamie-Lee Price. Photo / Nick Reed

The Magic have pulled off a masterful escape act at The Trusts Arena, edging out the Northern Mystics in the final few minutes 54-51 after trailing at every exchange.

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty side found themselves in a deep hole early on, trailing by seven goals at the first break after being unable to match the hot shooting of Mystics skipper Maria Tutaia, who did not record a miss in the opening half.

But the Magic set about methodically pegging back the early deficit, patiently awaiting their opportunity to pounce. That opportunity came in the final quarter, when the visitors took advantage of a couple of early errors from the Mystics to level the score at 48-all and set up a thrilling finale to the match.

Going goal for goal through much of the final stages, the Magic seized their opportunity in the final two and a half minutes when a stray ball into the Mystics shooting circle was pounced on by Magic skipper Leana de Bruin.

The clash between the two neighbouring franchises has developed into one of New Zealand netball's fiercest rivalries and tonight was no exception, with the battle between Magic midcourter Grace Rasmussen and her opposite Serena Guthrie, and de Bruin and Cathrine Tuivaiti in the goal circle particularly absorbing.

It's a rivalry the Magic have firmly had the edge in, winning 15 of their 20 previous meetings heading into the match. The most recent win came just two weeks ago, when the resurgent Magic edged out the Mystics in a low-scoring affair in Hamilton.

After failing to deliver a win from the opening six rounds, things appeared to be clicking into place for the Magic. Three straight wins saw them leap into second place on the New Zealand conference ladder and put them back on track to continue their record as the only side to have made the ANZ Championship finals every season (albeit that proposition became a little bit easier with the introduction of the conference system last year).

But after shaking off a slow start, the Mystics exposed frailties in the Magic attack early on, breaking down their links on attack by shutting down key ball distributor Rasmussen.

With the Silver Ferns midcourter being kept busy by Guthrie, the Magic seemed to hit a road block at the tranverse line.

Struggling to get the ball into their shooting circle, the Magic were kept scoreless for four minutes. In that time the Mystics scored eight unanswered goals to turn a 6-9 deficit into a 14-9 lead.

By the first break the homeside had stretched that lead even further, taking a 19-12 lead heading into the second spell.

The Mystics major failing this season has been their inability to drive home the advantage once they built a sizeable lead. They have been in commanding positions in previous matches, but have only managed to convert two of those opportunities into wins.

The Mystics managed to repel first surge from the Magic, when the visitors fought their way back from a 30-25 halftime deficit to draw level at 31-all four minutes into period.

Buoyed by the slick shooting of skipper Tutaia, who finished with an impressive 29/34 from the night - most of those from long range - the Mystics restored the margin back out to 42-38 heading into the final turn.

But when the final push came from the Magic in the last quarter, the homeside had no answer.

- NZ Herald

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