Steel show improvement in tight loss

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 21:41 17/03/2014
Leana de Bruin
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
OH SO CLOSE: Leana de Bruin of the Magic and Jhanieie Fowler of the Steel reach for a ball under the net during the Magic's tight 61-57 victory over the Steel in Hamilton.

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The Southern Steel turned in a much improved performance in Hamilton last night, but are still to bank their first win of the season.

The Steel lost 61-57 to the unbeaten Magic, despite leading by five goals at halftime and being right in the contest throughout the final quarter.

It was disappointing stuff for a franchise which has never beaten the Magic in seven attempts in the North Island, but there were definitely signs that the Steel are on an upward trajectory.

Steel started the game well, a Rachel Rasmussen turnover helping the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team out to an early 3-nil lead.

It would take the Magic nearly 10 minutes to draw level after their early error, as Steel had few problems finding and feeding Fowler-Reid despite the double team by internationals Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin.

Fowler-Reid's ability to pull in balls that no other player would be able to get near was a feature of her play last year and there was ample evidence that she is starting to rediscover that form after a disrupted start to the season.

Skipper Jodi Brown was finding plenty of space in the shooting circle as well, and with Shannon Francois doing the bulk of the heavy lifting at centre pass time, Brown was able to provide a genuine shooting option.

Despite often pulling up at an awkward shooting distance, Brown looked composed and accurate after scoring Steel's opening goal of the night, and she covered so much ground she looked like she was training for a marathon.

In form teams like the Magic don't need much of an invitation, and when Steel started to show some indecisiveness on attack heading into the first break, the home team were able to sneak away to a one goal lead.

This wasn't a perfect Steel performance, but perhaps the most pleasing aspect as the team's determination to win the ball back when they did make mistakes.

There were still stepping and held ball calls which shouldn't be happening at this level, but there was also an ability to make up for those individual errors.

Jo Harten was the main thorn for the Steel.

The English international had only missed two goals in two hours of netball before last night and she continued in that vein against the Steel, blotting her copybook only once in the first half.

Grace Rasmussen was fired up for the Magic, hogging the majority of the centre pass receipts and getting into one memorable tussle for the ball with her sister Rachel in the first half.

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The introduction of 18-year-old Jamie-Lee Price seemed to provide a spark for the Magic, who had wiped away the five goal deficit with four and a a half minutes left in the quarter.

A cool bit of finishing by the Magic in the dying seconds of the quarter saw them complete a six goal turnaround and take a 45-44 lead into the final quarter.

It was the Steel who blinked first, Grace Rasmussen earning the Magic a crucial turnover and a wild Brown pass helping the home team out to a five goal lead.

The Steel were able to close back to within two goals, but they couldn't find the break in the final five minutes which could have put them ahead and it was Kopua who got the steal in the final two minutes which made the game safe for the Magic.

- The Southland Times

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