The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic have made history by becoming the first New Zealand based franchise to be crowned ANZ Championship premiers after beating the Melbourne Vixens 41-38 on Sunday afternoon.
Trailing at every stoppage but not out of the game, the Magic came from behind in the fourth quarter in the Grand Final at Hisense Arena to silence the home crowd and claim New Zealand’s first title after five years.
The experience of shooter Irene van Dyk, who finished with 25 goals from 26 attempts, mid-courter Laura Langman and defenders Casey Williams and player of the match Leana de Bruin proved the difference against the Vixens’ inexperience.
Despite it being the biggest game of the season, the Vixens opted to stick with the rookie partnership of Karyn Howarth and Tegan Caldwell in the shooting circle for the decider after the pair earned their starting positions with stellar seasons.
Nerves got the better of the two sides early on with the teams combining for 12 turnovers in the first quarter as inaccurate shooting and wayward passes failed to find the target however it was the hosts who took an 8-7 lead into quarter-time.
With the first 15 minutes out of the way, the second quarter saw the return of free flowing netball but the defence at either end of the court showed no signs of letting up in a fiercely contested grand final.
Vixens’ defensive trio of Geva Mentor, Bianca Chatfield and Julie Corletto did an outstanding job of limiting the Magic to just 22 attempts at goal in the first half while Williams and de Bruin proved difficult for the inexperienced shooters at the other end who combined for just 66 per cent accuracy.
With the Vixens leading 22-18 at half-time, the home side maintained their four goal advantage for much of the third quarter as the two teams went goal for goal in a seesawing battle which saw the Magic only able to peg one goal back by three-quarter time through a late turn over.
After getting a sniff late in the third quarter and with the game in the balance, the experienced Magic, contesting their third grand final in five years, assumed control of momentum early in the fourth quarter.
Test veterans Williams and de Bruin stepped up in the last stanza to limit the Vixens’ opportunity under the post and snapped up any rebounds or loose balls as van Dyk showed her experience by converting nine from nine under pressure to see her side claim the premiership by three goals.
The strong and vocal contingent of travelling Magic fans were sent into euphoria at the final whistle with an impromptu haka performed in the stands at the end of the court to the delight of the celebrating Magic team.
Not only does the victory end New Zealand’s trans-Tasman title drought but the Magic also ended their Melbourne hoodoo, winning for the first time in the Victorian capital in their fifth attempt, while extending their unbeaten run to 12 games.
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