The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have suffered another devastating loss in the wake of losing their captain Casey Kopua.
The former Silver Ferns captain was benched last Wednesday night after suffering a foot injury during the warm-ups. And unable to adapt to the absence of their influential skipper, the Magic were decisively defeated by the Southern Steel 76-60 at Hamilton's Claudelands Arena.
The Steel took full advantage of the injury-struck Magic defence force in the opening quarter, capitalising from the absence of both Kopua and Silver Ferns defender Kelly Jury.
The raw combination of Katherine Levien and Kate Lloyd were tasked with leading the Magic, which proved a big ask for the young duo who faced the accurate Jen O'Connell.
As the Steel confidently took a four-goal lead, Magic coach Margaret Forsyth made an early change to her defensive line-up by calling Hannah Ridling to the court in goal defence.
The youngster's fresh presence was a welcomed change to the defending circle, and with the Magic shooters producing a faultless performance under the hoop, the Waikato side threatened the visitor's narrow lead.
As the Steel held onto their advantage in the second quarter, feisty Magic on-court captain Sam Sinclair became a driving force for her side.
Leading her fellow midcourters with vision and direction, Sinclair found good connection with Magic import shooter Lenize Potgieter and up-comer Monica Falkner.
But it wasn't enough to keep up with the fast pace set by an all-international Steel midcourt made up of Silver Ferns' Shannon Francois, Gina Crampton, and captain Wendy Frew, as the home side stormed ahead to claim an extended lead.
The Magic were desperate for a comeback in the final stanza of the clash as Lloyd began to find confidence snatching multiple intercepts for her side.
Potgieter's continued 100 per cent shooting accuracy gave the Magic hope of reeling in their opponents, but sloppy play from the midcourt saw the South African import's shooting opportunities suffer.
Mastering the game of possession, the Steel surged ahead to confidently extend their promising seven-goal lead in the final quarter, while the home side struggled to stay in control.
By snatching the win, the Steel are now on par for points with league leaders the Central Pulse on the ANZ Premiership ladder, as the defending champions edge closer to reclaiming their top spot ahead of the finals.
The Pulse will have an opportunity to get ahead of the pack again on Wednesday night when they face the Mainland Tactix at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena.