Tactix steal victory as Steel blow late lead

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 21:37 18/06/2012
Donna Wilkins
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ
IN YOUR FACE: Steel shooter Donna Wilkins gets struck in the face by Tactix defender Jo Tripp during their trans-Tasman netball match in Invercargill.

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The one that got away.

The Southern Steel have blown a four-goal fourth quarter advantage to lose to the Canterbury Tactix 62-61 in Invercargill tonight.

The Steel appeared to have the game in the bag and be heading for just their third win of the season, but were outplayed by the Tactix in the dying stages of the contest.

Steel skipper Jodi Brown had a chance to tie the game right on fulltime, but her speculative effort rimmed out.

The Tactix deserve full credit for the way they never gave up and stopped trying until the final whistle.

Mistakes crept into Steel's play late in the fourth quarter and Tactix feasted off them, with shooters Jo Harten and Ellen Halpenny cool, calm and collected in the shooting end.

It was only the Tactix' second win of the season, and ended a eight-game winless drought for the Canterbury franchise.

The Steel will be kicking themselves, with this a game they never should have let slip at home. All they had to do was play patient netball and close out the result, but it was not to be.

Tactix captain Maree Bowden had a superb game in the midcourt for her team, sending some crisp ball through to her shooters and winning some excellent turnovers on defence.

Steel shooters Donna Wilkins and Jodi Brown combined well during the game in the shooting circle, only missing six shots between them, and did all they could to lead their team to an elusive win.

The Steel have now lost eight consecutive games, with their last victory, ironically coming against the Tactix in Christchurch 64 days and nine rounds ago.

One of the loudest roars of the night was reserved for ex-Sting great and former Silver captain Adine Wilson, who replaced Hayley Saunders in the midcourt with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Wilson answered an SOS for Steel last week against the Mystics, coming out of retirement to help her old side's injury ravaged midcourt,

The first quarter was an even affair, with both teams having no trouble sending the ball into the shooting circle.

The Steel made a bright start to the second quarter with Brown and Wilkins combining nicely in front of goal. The Steel built a four goal lead midway through the second quarter, but just when it looked like they were about to put the foot down, they were let down by turnovers in the attacking end, which gifted possession back to the Tactix.

Ellen Halpenny and English international Jo Harten were in strong form in the shooting end for the Tactix, converting 89 per cent of their chances in the opening 30 minutes of play.

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Every time, the Cantabrians closed the Steel's lead, the southerners were able to reply at the other end of the court.
The Steel finished the first half with a flourish, going on a 5-2 run, to take a four goal cushion into the halftime break.

Saunders impressed for the Steel at wing defence in the first half, picking up two intercepts and a deflection, and did an sound job of frustrating the Tactix midcourt with her nagging defence.

The Steel will be attempting to break their 12-game winless record on Australian soil in their next game on Sunday against the New South Wales Swifts in Sydney. The Tactix face a  formidable test against the table-topping Northern Mystics in Christchurch on Sunday.

Canterbury Tactix 62 (Joanne Harten 41 Ellen Halpenny 21) Southern Steel 61 (Donna Wilkins 37 Jodi Brown 24) at Stadium Southland's ILT Velodrome

- The Southland Times

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