Magic too strong for the Steel in Hamilton
Southern Steel have suffered their largest defeat in franchise history, losing 66-47 to a dominant Waikato-Bay of Plenty side in Hamilton.
Steel stunned Magic in the opening round of the season in April, but with Magic needing to keep in touch with the competition frontrunners, one always sensed a similar result was going to be difficult to achieve for the southerners.
Magic's win was built around their outstanding defensive combination of Silver Ferns' Leana de Bruin and Casey Williams, who frustrated the Steel attackers and managed to pick up a steady supply of turnover ball.
In the shooting circle, Irene van Dyk and Julianna Naoupu both had brilliant games, shooting a combined 92 per cent on the night.
Naoupu has battled for consistency over her netball career, but has stood out during Magic's past five games and finally looks to be translating her promise into potential. It was the fifth win in a row for the resurgent Magic, who began 2012 with four consecutive losses.
The 19-goal losing margin eclipsed Steel's biggest previous loss which was 17 goals.
Steel have been plagued by sloppy first quarters this season, but made a bright start to the game. The Steel coaching staff demanded greater through-court defence from their side and they delivered early on, causing problems for the Magic, especially in the midcourt.
Steel opted for a patient style of netball, aiming for short, accurate passes rather than risky long balls, and it paid dividends early on.
Steel only committed two turnovers during the opening term and they were able to leap out to a 14-13 first quarter advantage.
Magic came out a completely different side to start the next quarter, pressurising the Steel team into mistakes and finding it easier to get the ball through to their potent shooting duo of van Dyk and Naoupu, who landed 29 of their 32 attempts (91 per cent) in the first half.
Steel became rattled and momentum began to swing in the Magic's favour, going on a 6-1 burst to finish the first half as they took a seven-goal lead into the halftime interval.
Needing to fight their way back into the game, Steel co-coaches Natalie Avellino and Janine Southby rung the changes at halftime, bringing on New Zealand under-21 international Gina Crampton at wing attack for her ANZ Championship debut. Stephanie Bond, who answered an injury SOS late last week was also inserted into the defensive end in place of Storm Purvis.
The alterations did not seem to affect the Magic, who made a sublime start to the second half, scoring five unanswered goals as their lead ballooned out to double figures.
One thing you can guarantee about the Steel side is that they will never put up the white flag and they tried valiantly to chip away at the deficit. Donna Wilkins was given a breather for the final quarter, with young Steel shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit given a chance to impress.
Magic's star-studded line-up refused to let up and put their foot down over the final 15 minutes of the game, outscoring Steel 19-13 to record a convincing victory.
Steel's night went from bad to worse when promising young midcourter Shannon Francois left the court in the closing stages of the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Quarter scores (Magic first)
13-14, 29-22, 47-34, 66-47
Magic: Irene van Dyk: 39/40 (98 per cent), Julianna Naoupu: 27/32 (84 per cent)
Steel: Jodi Brown: 26/32 (81 per cent), Donna Wilkins: 12/15 (80 per cent), Te Paea Selby-Rickit 9/12 (75 per cent)