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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel Defeat MG Mystics 47-43 In Dunedin

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel delivered on all fronts to inflict an upset 47-43 win over the MG Mystics in Dunedin on Sunday while posting their second win of the season.

In clinching their first win in Dunedin since 2021, the Steel also had the satisfaction of getting their hands on the Georgie Salter Memorial Trophy, in memory of the late former Silver Fern who had strong coaching connections to both Otago and Auckland.

Photo credit: Michael Bradley Photography

It was the second upset of the weekend after the Magic’s comprehensive win over the Pulse on Saturday and despite a late last quarter surge from the Mystics, the Steel held firm to savour their best performance of the season.

With the loss of Shannon Saunders to a season-ending injury, and Ivari Christie ruled out for this match, the Steel had a new-look midcourt with Serina Danaukamakama, a Mystics training partner, making her debut at wing attack while Abby Lawson, goal defence, got her first start of the season.

Also missing a key player in Grace Nweke, the Mystics lined up with the budding shooting partnership of Hannah Glen (goal shoot) and Filda Vui under the hoop in a settled line-up.

Taking two minutes before the first goal was scored indicated the tone of the match as a real arm-wrestle eventuated through the first half.

With the accuracy missing from both sides, it was a messy start as the ball went back and forth for little reward. In a defence-orientated match, attacking momentum proved elusive with neither side able to find any flow.

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Nudging to a three-goal lead, the Steel were unable to build on their buffer with Mystics defender Carys Stythe’s long reach causing plenty of problems for Steel shooter Grace Namana.

A string of five straight goals handed the impetus back to the Mystics, who took a slender 11-10 lead into the first break.

Showing all their renowned grit, resilience and ball retention capabilities, the home side were staunch in holding their ground, and the Mystics at arm’s length, during an absorbing second stanza.

The lack of flow continued and the usually free-flowing Mystics struggled in the face of committed team defence from the Steel where Renee Savai’inaea, Lawson and Taneisha Fifita all prospered.

It was hard work for both teams to thread the ball through court, but the closeness of the score ensured the intensity remained high.

With the lead changing hands several times, it was the Steel who got the vital breakthrough, the shooting combination of Georgia Heffernan and Namana, through good movement and accuracy, getting the upper hand over the attention provided by Phoenix Karaka and Stythe.

Finishing strongly, it was the Steel who were well worth their 23-20 lead heading into the main break.

Terrific team defence continued to help the Steel keep their noses in front during the third stanza as the Mystics made several quick changes in personnel and playing positions in a frantic bid to crack the game open.

Leading from the front, Steel captain Kate Heffernan was a towering presence, both on attack and in defence while her young offsider Danaukamakama was steady and unfazed throughout the challenge of her first game at the elite level.

In unfamiliar territory, the Steel’s confidence continued to soar as their constant pressure forced the Mystics into rushes of blood and a building roster of errors.

Namana and Georgia Heffernan added the polish with their exploits under the Steel hoop to push the home side out to a 35-30 lead at the last turn.

With the game far from over, the Steel kept their shoulders to the wheel in the run home, surging to an eight-goal lead at one stage as they denied a desperate Mystics any sniff of getting themselves back into the contest.

© Scoop Media

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