The Southern Steel have underlined their status as the team to beat in the ANZ Premiership.
In a clash between the last two undefeated sides in the league, the Steel triumphed over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, claiming a 72-59 victory in Invercargill.
Their comfortable win doubled as a modicum of revenge from their shock defeat the last time the two teams met.
Last season, the Steel looked like they could become just the second Kiwi team to win the transtasman ANZ Championship competition. Having completed an unbeaten regular season, the Steel were tipped over by the 6-7 Magic in a stunning conference final. That left them with an unenviable trip to Queensland for the semifinal, where they were edged by the Firebirds to end a promising season agonisingly short of success.
With the core of their side returning, the Steel can make amends in this year's new competition, and their performance tonight is a promising sign of things to come.
The Magic were no pushovers, having made an impressive start to the season. The youngest roster in the competition started their campaign with two 20 point wins, followed by a tight victory over the Central Pulse.
Led by an international-level core of Casey Kopua, Grace Rasmussen and South African shooter Lenize Potgieter, the Magic have also received strong production from a slew of rookies to create a balanced roster capable of challenging the competition's elite.
They started strongly against the Steel, with crisp passing and movement creating clean pockets in the shooting circle. However, their early lead quickly dissipated, growing sloppy in possession as the quick hands of the Steel defenders turned deflections into turnovers.
Down the other end, the powerful Jhaniele Fowler-Reid was utilising her size and strength, leveraging her back to the hoop to claim some high feeds over the Magic defensive duo of Casey Kopua and Kelly Jury.
The Steel frequently double-teamed Potgieter, with reasonable success. The Magic goal shoot came into the game averaging 47.6 goals per game, but was held to just 38 swishes by the stingy Steel defence.
Potgieter's shooting partner, Monica Falkner, was at times hesitant with ball in hand as the Steel defenders sat deep, leading to Rasmussen taking over at goal attack. However, that experiment was short-lived due to two airballs in her first three shots, as the Steel built a handy buffer.
The Magic battled well defensively, with Jury especially opportunistic. However, they failed to cash in at the attacking end, with Steel defender Jane Watson increasing her league-leading deflections tally in a fine display.
Down 32-27 at halftime, the Magic had hope, but the Steel rattled off five straight goals to start the second half, creating a margin that the visitors couldn't cut into.
Fowler-Reid finished with another productive night under the hoop, shooting 45/50 before taking an early rest as the Steel coasted home for a third straight win.