Intense defence sets up Steel win

Steel goal shooter George Fisher prepares to shoot while Tactix defenders Karin Burger (left) and...
Steel goal shooter George Fisher prepares to shoot while Tactix defenders Karin Burger (left) and Jane Watson look on, as does Steel team-mate Tiana Metuarau, during their ANZ Premiership match in Invercargill last night. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Starts do not get much better.

The new-look Southern Steel thrashed the Mainland Tactix 54-36 in its ANZ Premiership season opener in Invercargill last night.

It was an impressive showing against a team many picked as this season's favourite.

The second quarter proved pivotal, the Steel going on an 8-2 run to open a 22-14 lead.

It brought composure on attack and, more importantly, far more tenacity on defence than the Tactix.

Its defence swarmed, constantly disrupting the Tactix attack, which was without Te Paea Selby-Rickit, and creating turnovers.

The home team looked after the ball on attack, the new-look midcourt of Shannon Saunders at wing attack, Kate Heffernan at centre and Renee Savai'inaea at wing defence flourishing.

Saunders, in particular, threaded some sublime passes into the circle.

Import George Fisher was superb in the shooting circle, making herself an easy target and finishing on 46/49 of her shots.

Steel coach Reinga Bloxham was happy with the way the whole team had played.

She agreed the defensive intensity had set the tone.

‘‘It's something we've been working on but we hadn't quite nailed,’’' she said.

‘‘It was good to see that defensive end combining well and able to turnover ball. Once the attack got it they were so patient with the ball they worked really hard to get it to the other end.’’

She added the second-quarter run had been key in giving the side its belief.

‘‘In the moment we were just so focused on what our job was once we got the ball we didn't celebrate the fact we'd gone on that roll.

‘‘But once we realised we got a few goals up it did give us that belief that we're OK here. If we just keep grinding away we're going to be good.’’

The Steel brought intensity from the start and that allowed it to get an early lead.

A Taneisha Fifita tip gave the Steel its first chance to take the lead.

It did just that and then when the Tactix threw the ball over the baseline the Steel was able to make it 6-3.

However, the Tactix defence pulled back to 11-11 at the break.

At that point the Steel exerted its dominance.

A Kate Heffernan intercept and a Fifita deflection sparked a run in which the Steel jumped out to lead 21-14.

Its attack end was clinical with that ball, while the Tactix attack began to look frantic.

The Tactix stemmed the flow, but it was the Steel that took a 25-19 lead to halftime.

But the Steel hit back again early in the third quarter, extending the lead to 30-20.

Again the Tactix looked to hit back, but the Steel ensured it did not get close.

The home side clinically finished the game in the final quarter, Fisher's reliable presence allowing the Steel to pull away.

In the curtain raiser, the Southern Blast was beaten 68-38 by the Northern Comets in their opening National Netball league match.

Meanwhile, in Palmerston North the Northern Stars beat the Central Pulse 57-53 in the ANZ Premiership opening game.

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