17 Jul 2016

Magic defy odds to beat Steel

7:21 pm on 17 July 2016

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic have defied expectations, beating heavy favourites Southern Steel 59-57 in the New Zealand conference final of the ANZ netball championship.

Southern Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid competes against Magic defender Leana de Bruin.

Leana de Bruin, left, of the Magic and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid of the Steel compete for the ball during a previous match in Invercargill in June. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It means the Steel will have to travel to Australia for the semi-finals next week while the Magic get to host either the Queensland Firebirds or the New South Wales Swifts.

The Steel had gone unbeaten all year, unlike the Magic, who went into the game with a 6-7 win-loss record.

The Magic came out firing in Invercargill and played an almost faultless first half, leading 19-13 at the first break.

England international Jo Harten was in sparkling form under the hoop for the Magic and her link with wing attack Grace Rasmussen was on song.

The visitors retained their momentum to shut down the Steel and leave them in unfamiliar territory.

The Magic defensive pairing of Leana de Bruin and Kristiana Manu'a double marked the Steel's prolific shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, limiting her opportunities.

In-circle defender Abby Erwood, 19, was on for her Steel debut midway through the second stanza in a bid to stem the Magic flow as the lead stretched out to 10.

The Steel looked hesitant on attack and nothing was going right for them when the half-time whistle blew, with the score 35-27 in favour of the Magic.

Lifting their intensity, the Steel stirred into fightback mode during a highly-charged third quarter to prune back the deficit.

Getting more ball into the hands of Fowler-Reid as well as big efforts from centre Shannon Francois and rookie Erwood, the Magic's lead was cut by five going into the final spell.

The scores were tied with six minutes left but the Magic were steadfast.

Harten remained a key influence, the Magic shooter playing an impressive hand under the hoop, with 46 from 52.