Invercargill was out in force to cheer on a valiant Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel who made the MG Mystics fight for their second win on the road with a 61 to 52 victory in round two of the ANZ Premiership.

The Mystics advance to second on the table on equal points with the first placed Trident Homes Tactix, while the Steel endure yet another defeat making it a 19-game losing streak extending back to round 12 of the 2022 season.

While the Mystics led at the end of every quarter, the Steel threatened an upset with shooter Grace Namana leading the charge sinking an impressive 33 from 33 to finish the match with 100% and the ANZ Player of the Match.

Silver Ferns veteran midcourter Shannon Saunders made an impact at wing attack for the Steel from the opening whistle, enjoying her return to netball after giving birth to her first child last February and overcoming a minor knee injury earlier this year.

The Mystics benefited from tight defensive pressure on the Steel’s centre pass to create some valuable turnovers which gave them a handy three goal lead heading into the second quarter.

The Steel opened the second quarter with strong defensive pressure through the midcourt with centre Kate Heffernan turning up three intercepts to disrupt the Mystics’ flow, however the southerners struggled to convert their opportunities enabling the Mystics to hold onto their lead.

The ever-composed Mystics weathered the Steel’s bursts of intensity well by sticking to their structure and playing with patience. Captain Michaela Sokolich-Beatson provided a safe pair of hands through court, helping to steady her side and give direction through the Steel’s defence. This saw them maintain a superior stat-sheet with a better overall shooting percentage, centre-pass conversion and turnover conversion to lead by seven at half-time.

While the third quarter was where the Mystics shone last week, it was a different story in round two with the Steel sniffing an opportunity to claw back the deficit. Again it was the Steel’s solid pressure through the midcourt that slowed the Mystics’ usual quick-ball and limited the long bombs into Grace Nweke.

Mystics goal-attack Filda Vui did well to provide another option in the shooting circle and put up some beautiful shots to maintain a 100% shooting percentage before being replaced midway through the third quarter by Hannah Glen.

A gutsy fight back saw the Steel go goal-for-goal with the Mystics, with each side scoring 14-points in the third quarter to set up an exciting final stanza.

It was stalwart defender Phoenix Karaka who came out firing in the fourth quarter, earning some valuable turnovers at crucial times for the Mystics to reset the momentum and hand her side back control of the match.

Jennifer O’Connell made her long-awaited return to court for the Steel at goal shooter after suffering a knee injury back in 2020, replacing Georgia Heffernan who looked to go off with a limp. O’Connell slotted some nice shots for her side before leaving the court with just 20 seconds to go with what appeared to be a twinge to her knee.

While the Steel looked as though they might hold on for a bonus point, they failed to get the job done eventually falling to the Mystics’ sword 61 to 52.