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Mystics fend off spirited Magic in six-goal victory

Mystics fend off spirited Magic in six-goal victory

Slowly but surely, the Northern Mystics overcame a spirited challenge from the Splice Construction Magic to secure a 45-39 victory and reclaim second spot on the ANZ Premiership ladder.

In the final match of round 7 - the last full round at the Auckland Netball Centre - the Mystics took control of the middle quarters through the defence of Sulu Fitzpatrick, the attack of Peta Toeava and the shooting of Grace Nweke, who carried her side’s shooting efforts with 39 from 47 attempts.

In a consistent team effort, the Magic threw everything they had into the match and in the final second were denied a bonus point they probably deserved.

It wasn’t a pretty opening stanza with both teams making too many basic errors - when it was obvious both were desperate for the win.

The Mystics were coming off a six-goal loss to the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 24 hours before, while the Magic were playing for pride and redemption after being convincingly beaten by Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse on Friday.

Magic teenager Khiarna Williams, starting at goal shoot, showed confidence in the circle that belied her age, missing only one shot in the opening quarter, supported well by her goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou. It was a tough task against one of the most experienced defence circles in the league.

Magic goal defence Erena Mikaere, with her rangy arms, and up-and-coming goal keep Georgia Tong, with her deceptive leap, worked in tandem to try to rattle Mystic goal shoot Nweke, but she managed to keep her composure.

The Magic were at times three goals ahead, but with a minute to go in the first quarter, the Mystics drew level and went into the break 11-11.

The vision of Toeava came to the fore in the second quarter, with her combination with Tayla Earle and her perfectly placed lobs in to Nweke helping the Mystics out to a three-goal advantage.

Up 24-21 at halftime, the Mystics brought Filda Vui into the attack at goal attack, while the Magic also changed-up their shooting circle reverting back to the more established pairing of Kelsey McPhee and Latu-Meafoa.

The Magic took a while to settle into their change, and the safe hands of goal keep Fitzpatrick helped the Mystics to extend their lead to six.

As the lead grew, both teams made changes: Jenna O’Sullivan entered the game at wing defence for the Magic, and Saviour Tui came on at goal attack for the Mystics. But it was the Northerners who capitalised, and were 38-30 in front going into the final spell.

But the Magic, renowned for not giving up, poured the pressure on the Mystics attack and with relentless defence from Mikaere and Holly Fowler at goal defence, backed up by superb feeding from Whitney Souness, they closed the gap to within five.

Some fierce defending from Fitzpatrick and captain Phoenix Karaka in the final minutes ensured the Mystics held on for victory - a penalty goal in the last second from Tui denied the Magic a bonus point they would have loved to have salvaged from a determined effort.