Netball: Steel looks set to finish top NZ team

Top spot in the New Zealand conference appears the Steel's to lose after it retained its handy lead on the competition ladder during its bye week.

The Steel has a six-point break on the next best New Zealand side with a game in hand and some simple calculations suggest two wins from its last seven games should be enough to ensure it finishes number one.

On form, those two wins could come in the next three weeks, although the Steel is taking nothing for granted.

It faces the struggling Pulse in Wellington on Monday, a team it beat handsomely in round four, and plays the Mystics in Dunedin the following round.

The Mystics have struggled this season and battled to put away the Pulse on its home court on Monday, but have the arsenal to string some wins together if they click in the back half of the season.

The Steel then travels to Christchurch to take on the Tactix, a team the southern side should beat if it is a serious title contender.

Three more wins throughout the remainder of the season would take the Steel to 17 points, and would mean the Tactix or Mystics (five points) would have to win its remaining six games, including beating the Steel, to make up the 12-point gap.

In all likelihood, two more wins should be more than enough for the Steel to hold its challengers at bay.

In that case, the Pulse (three points) and Magic (two points) would have to win all their remaining matches to haul the Steel in, while the Mystics and Tactix could only afford to drop one game if they were to draw level with the southerners.

The Mystics still have to play the Vixens and Swifts, while the Tactix still need to play the Swifts and travel to Adelaide to take on the Thunderbirds.

Still, the Steel would want to take care of those wins quickly, as it plays the defending champion Firebirds in round 11 and finishes its season with matches against the Vixens and Swifts in rounds 13 and 14.

Securing top spot would ensure an uncomplicated path to a potential semifinal for the Steel.

It would have the first week off, then play at home against the winner of a second versus third playoff match in the second week.

If it got past that challenge, it would again play at home in its semifinal, against the second-placed team from the Australian conference.

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