Southern Steel took half a game to find their rhythm, but proved unstoppable once they did, rolling over Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic 63-53 in their trans-Tasman netball league match in Rotorua.
Little separated the two teams for the first 30 minutes, with the scores level 12-12 at the end of the first quarter and 29-29 at halftime.
But the Steel found another gear in the third stanza, Shannon Francois and Gina Crampton shifting the ball through the midcourt with more pace and assurance into 1.98m goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
Fowler-Reid’s combination with goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit grew in confidence, the pair working the circle well to create space as the Steel won the quarter 17-10 to lead 46-39 at the three-quarter mark.
They kept the pressure up over the final 15 minutes, winning the spell 17-14, with Fowler-Reid showing excellent variety in her circle movement as well as accuracy on the shot in sinking 44 from 47.
Selby-Rickit provided invaluable support in shooting 19 from 24, but it was her work in bringing the ball down and on the feed into Fowler-Reid which really impressed.
At the other end of the court, Selby-Rickit’s older sister Te Huinga Reo joined Storm Purvis in the Steel’s defensive circle after halftime ramp up the pressure on Magic shooters Jo Harten and Malia Paseka.
The Magic missed absent captain Leana de Bruin at the back and key midcourter Grace Rasmussen, both sidelined with injury, and looked hesitant on transition as they tried to find Harten and Paseka with any consistency.
Harten, playing in the less familiar position of goal attack, lacked her usual accuracy in sinking 20 from 27 while Paseka also struggled with her shot, managing only 31 from 45.
The win consolidates the Steel at the top of the New Zealand conference with two wins and a draw after three rounds.