Our Magic extinguish Firebirds
A week of Waikato triumph?AARON GOILE
Who has more chance of going all the way this year, the Chiefs or the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic?
A Magic victory in front of a hometown crowd at Claudelands Events Centre last night has completed the first step of what everyone is hoping will be a week of Waikato triumph.
The Magic's 53 to 43 win over the Queensland Firebirds has secured the Waikato-Bay of Plenty-based franchise hosting rights for the third versus fourth sudden death contest, and seen the team complete a nine-game winning run to remarkably get to the playoffs following their dismal four-loss start to the season.
They are the only team in the competition to have made the finals each of the five years. Should they win Sunday's match, the Magic will be one game away from a third grand final, travelling to a preliminary final to face the loser of the Melbourne Vixens vs Northern Mystics major semifinal.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have made just one Super Rugby final before, but the memories of that match are probably best forgotten.
This season they have been in fine form though, playing some clinical rugby to get to the top of the table. They will be ultra keen to further improve their 12-win 2-loss season record to get home advantage come the playoffs.
Full Match Report
The momentum will well and truly remain with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic as they head to the trans-Tasman netball league playoffs.
Last night the Magic racked up their ninth win in a row, a franchise record, as they finished the regular season by defeating the Queensland Firebirds 53-43 at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton.
The result means the Magic finish in third spot and host the fourth-placed Adelaide Thunderbirds in the sudden death minor semifinal next Monday night at Claudelands.
The defending champion Firebirds finish the competition in sixth spot, but weren't an easy proposition, pushing the Magic close until the hosts surged away in the final quarter.
The Firebirds had won eight of their 11 games in New Zealand before tonight, including their previous seven and had beaten the Magic in all but the first of their previous five encounters.
But the home side, through brilliant displays from Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin, managed to apply plenty of pressure to Firebirds shooters Romelda Aiken and Natalie Medhurst, while Irene van Dyk shot a perfect 29/29 at the other end, getting the measure of Laura Geitz.
The Magic took a one-goal lead to the first break after an encouraging first quarter.
Williams lifted her side with a brilliant intercept on eight minutes and that helped the Magic get out to an 11-7 advantage.
When Aiken smashed into the goal post she gave up possession and the visitors may have been on the brink of sliding further behind, but they managed to narrow the margin.
For the second quarter the Firebirds brought Amy Steel on in place of Shannon Eagland, who took a tumble early on.
The Firebirds' opening pass of the quarter went astray before Julianna Naoupu immediately gave the ball back.
The hosts again worked their way to a four-goal lead, before the Firebirds clawed their way back.
Van Dyk smashed Geitz to the floor in a big hit and with halftime looming some excellent work from de Bruin and Williams kept the ball in court and the Magic capitalised to go to the big break up 27-24.
The Firebirds came out of the changing rooms the better of the sides, as they went on a 5-1 run to open the third period, taking the lead 29-28.
Getting the ball into the circle suddenly became more tricky for the Magic, and the flow that was there earlier on wasn't replicated.
Williams plucked two intercepts during the quarter to lift her side, with her second one late in the piece to help the hosts get out to 40-36 by three-quarter time.
Firebirds captain Lauren Nourse, like in their last match, only entered the fray at the start of the final quarter, on at centre in place of Elissa Macleod.
It was the Magic though that seized the momentum, with van Dyk collecting well and getting her side out to 43-37.
She got up a bit wearily after another big collision between her and Geitz had the 40-year-old shooter hitting the ground with a heap of force.
However, the Magic got their A game out and went on a brilliant six-goal run, with two superb de Bruin intercepts helping their cause.
At 48-39 halfway through the quarter it was definitely game over, and the Firebirds benched wing attack Chelsea Pitman, with Macleod coming back at centre and Nourse shifting forward.
With two minutes left Naoupu was treated for a minor leg injury and was replaced by Jessie Waitapu, with the Magic going on to win the quarter 13-7.
Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic 53 (Irene van Dyk 29 Julianna Naoupu 24) Queensland Firebirds 43 (Romelda Aiken 25 Natalie Medhurst 18) at Claudelands Arena. 1Q: 14-13, 2Q: 13-11, 3Q: 13-12, 4Q: 13-7)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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