Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Mystics blown away by Magic in elimination final

Midcourter Grace Rasmussen made her long-awaited 100th ANZ Championship appearance. Photo / Getty
Midcourter Grace Rasmussen made her long-awaited 100th ANZ Championship appearance. Photo / Getty

Their record this season suggested the Northern Mystics did not deserve a place in the ANZ Championship play-offs.

Their performance in today's elimination final confirmed it.

The Mystics, who, thanks to the vagaries of the transtasman league conference set-up, entered the play-offs on the back of three wins from 13 outings, were blown off the court the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, suffering a heavy 63-47 loss in a bitter, ill-tempered clash.

It was a disappointing note for coach Debbie Fuller's tenure at the Mystics to end on, with her side desperately let down in the effort areas.

"At the end of the day things like getting rebounds, pick-ups and driving hard into the ball is what makes a difference and the Magic did those things better," said Fuller, who hands over the reins to Helene Wilson next season for the new domestic league.

The Magic, who now advance through to take on the Southern Steel in the New Zealand conference final next weekend, also showed stronger composure than their northern rivals, keeping their heads when the match threatened to descend into a brawl.

The high-stakes clash delivered ugly, niggly netball as both sides got caught up in the physicality, particularly in the first half.

Umpire Jono Bredin was forced to intervene mid-way through the second quarter in the Magic defensive end, as the battle in the circle between Kristiana Manu'a and Cathrine Tuivaiti got heated. Bredin issued a blanket warning the players to settle down or cards would be issued.

It was only the beginning the cautions being issued, with Magic shooter Jo Harten warned for mouthing off at the umpire after taking exception to some of the treatment by the Mystics defenders - one of which, Temalisi Fakahokotau, was also officially sanctioned.

Tuivaiti did not believe the physicality of the match had a bearing on the result for her side.

"Yes it was physical, was that the reason we lost? No," she said.

"We had heaps of opportunities and we blew them."

She said the Magic simply did a better job of treasuring their possession, scoring off the turnovers when they came - and there were plenty.

The Mystics, who were beginning to show some strong form heading into the play-offs after a disastrous start to the season, lost their strong connections on attack and confidence to let the ball go early on, as the Magic raced out to a 17-10 lead at the first break.

The Magic held on to that seven-goal advantage at halftime and the third quarter break, before delivering the knock-out blow with a devastating 19-10 final quarter effort.

The Auckland side appeared to drop their heads in the final spell, as their frustration at being unable to make a dent in the Magic's lead began to show. The loss of midcourter Nadia Loveday, who suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury early in the third quarter, also had an unsettling effect on the visitors.

Like the Mystics the Magic have struggled on the injury front all season, but the return of influential midcourter Grace Rasmussen, who made her long-awaited 100th ANZ Championship appearance, saw the attack end rediscover its rhythm.

The Magic also benefitted from a more settled shooting end, as Ellen Halpenny partnered Harten for the full match for the first time this season. Both delivered brutal accuracy on-goal - Halpenny converted 19 of her 21 shots, while Harten landed 44 from 48.

It was a similarly big scoreline in the Australian elimination final, as the ruthless NSW Swifts ended the Melbourne Vixens season with a convincing 67-54 win.

The Swifts will meet the Queensland Firebirds in next week's Australian conference final, before both sides move on to the contest the ANZ Championship semifinals against the Magic and the Steel. The match-ups will be determined by the outcome of the conference finals, with the New Zealand conference champion to host the loser of the Australian match-up, and vice versa.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 04 Dec 2016 02:00:10 Processing Time: 525ms