Kia Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic showed they had learned an important lesson after delivering an all-important 63-57 away win against the dangerous Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Invercargill on Saturday.

Having to settle for a draw with a late-charging SKYCITY Mystics last week, Magic were not about to let the same thing happen again.

With the visitors dominating for three-quarters of the match, the introduction of Katarina Cooper (wing defence) and Jane Watson (goal keeper) added some starch for Steel as the home team rallied strongly in the final quarter.

Steel got as close as four goals but Magic's young talent continued to show their growing composure and maturity, the three 19-year-olds in their line-up (Samantha Sinclair, Jamie-Lee Price and Kristiana Manu'a) delivering top performances.

Fresh off their record-breaking 84-goal haul last week, the Steel could not repeat the effort, Magic breaking the trend against the competition's best attacking team with a decisive and accurate attacking outing of their own.

Magic set themselves up with a clinically efficient opening stanza, a seven-goal lead and strong mental resolve at the end proving too much for a Steel team left in chase mode.

There were no surprises in either line-up for the all-important clash which featured the third-placed team (Steel) against the second in the New Zealand conference.

Both teams made efficient starts with respective goal shooters, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, for the home team, and Jo Harten benefiting from well-constructed attacking momentum.

With the scores deadlocked at 9-all, Magic stole a march to open the door in feeding off Steel errors.

Gaining confidence, the visitors delivered some quality play on attack, Grace Rasmussen directing the movement with her ability to find space and the top of the circle with ease.

Shooters Harten and Ellen Halpenny were almost flawless under the post in helping Magic build a healthy buffer.

Strong Magic defence created some shaky moments for Fowler-Reid, the home team not helped by a high penalty count and a 68 percent shooting return.

Conversely, the Magic's 95 percent conversion rate helped them post a 20-13 lead at the first break.

Steel scored the first three goals on the resumption but the hungry and ever-alert Magic, with some stunning passages of attacking movement, replied with a forceful showing to stretch out to a nine-goal lead.

Stung in to action, a late surge helped the home team get back into contention, four unanswered goals, built on a concerted defensive effort, narrowing the Magic's lead to 34-30 at the main break.

Narrowing the gap to three early during a lively third quarter was about as good as it got for Steel before Magic restored their eight-goal margin.

The visitors repelled every threat the Steel posed, exciting young defender Manu'a an expert at picking up the loose ball and working perfectly in tandem with her ever-green skipper Leana de Bruin in ensuring Fowler-Reid remained out of sorts.

Sophia Fenwick replaced Te Paea Selby-Rickit at goal attack for the home team midway through the stanza but Magic continued to excel on attack.

Creating perfect positioning outside the circle, Rasmussen and teenage centre Sinclair provided pin-pointing feeds to Harten and Halpenny.

Magic also shone with their offensive rebounding, Harten delivering an outstanding all-round game with her ability in the air, positioning and conversion rate.

Steel had enough ball to be closer on the scoreboard but shooting woes and an inability to convert their turnovers meant the home team trailed 50-40 at the last break.

Magic shooting statistics:
Jo Harten 42/47 (89%)
Ellen Halpenny 21/26 (81%)

Steel shooting statistics:
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 42/52 (81%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 15/20 (75%)
Sophia Fenwick 0/0 (0%)

MVP: Grace Rasmussen (Magic)


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