The high-flying Southern Steel have brought an abrupt halt to the Magic's five-match winning streak with a convincing 64-54 win in Invercargill today.
In the match-up between New Zealand's top two teams, the Steel continued their unbeaten run this season, pulling off another confidence-boosting win as the true test of their title credentials looms over the final rounds.
Next week's round 13 match-up with the Melbourne Vixens, who toppled the West Coast Fever in this afternoon's earlier game, could prove crucial to the Steel's post-season hopes. A win would ensure Noeline Taurua's side will finish with a higher points tally than the top-ranked Australian side, guaranteeing them home advantage through the play-offs for as long as they keep winning.
But the match raised a couple of areas of concerns for the Steel which will need to be addressed if they are to be a serious threat to the top Australian sides in the finals.
Despite the 10-goal scoreline, the Steel committed more turnovers than their opponents, with midcourter Gina Crampton, the key link to super-shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, contributing eight of those.
After a devastating start on defence, in which they restricted the Magic to just two goals in the opening seven minutes, the Steel also would have been disappointed with a couple of flat periods defensively, particularly in the second half.
"There were a few ugly patches in there, which we will want to iron out heading into next week's game," said Steel captain Wendy Frew.
"It is a 10-goal win, so we do need to be happy with that."
High on confidence after a 66-51 win over the defending champion Queensland Firebirds last week, the Steel made a rampant start to the match, with a run of seven unanswered goals helping them out to an 11-2 lead midway through the opening quarter as the Magic struggled to find their connections on attack.
By quartertime the Magic had made a slight recovery, as Grace Rasmussen exploited the middle channels through to Paula Griffin under the net for a couple of quick goals to trail 18-12 at the first break.
But just when it looked like the visitors were beginning to regain a foothold in the match, the Steel produced another surge to push their advantage into double figures.
With an impressive turnover-to-score rate of 85 per cent today, the Steel ensured any Magic slip-up was punished at the other end of the court as Fowler-Reid once again produced another masterful performance in-goal.
Trailing 37-25 at halftime, the Magic made several changes to their attack end over the second, with Courtney Tairi and Ellen Halpenny each given a run off the bench at centre and goal attack respectively, while regular centre Sam Sinclair made an appearance at wing attack in the final spell.
Finding better timing and rhythm on attack over the latter stages of the match, the Magic mounted a spirited fightback, winning the second half 29-27. But having built such a handy lead early on, the clinical Steel never allowed the Magic to really threaten.
In today's earlier game, the Melbourne Vixens pulled off a crucial 60-55 win over the West Coast Fever, in a match that could determine final play-off spots in the Australian conference.
The result saw the Vixens knock the Fever out of third position in the standings, handing them the advantage in the race for top three spots with two rounds remaining.