Netball: Steel notches three in a row, strikes blow for NZ sides

The high-flying Southern Steel will travel to Adelaide this week looking to equal its record winning streak and having become the first Kiwi team to knock over an Australian side this season.

The Steel extended its unbeaten run in this year's ANZ Championship to five matches in beating the West Coast Fever in a high-scoring match 69-62 in Invercargill on Saturday.

The Steel went into the match as underdog, given the Australian sides' 5-0 record against New Zealand opposition before the game.

But another strong defensive display across the court, some slick work on the circle edge and a shooting masterclass from towering Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler-Reid laid the foundation for the Steel's third consecutive win.

It has won four matches on the trot three times previously and will head to Australia for the first time this season looking to equal that record against a Thunderbirds side that has yet to win a game this year.

"I think, overall, that was our best performance out there,'' coach Noeline Taurua said of Saturday's win.

"Coming up against the Australian style, which we knew would be pure one-on-one defence, I thought we handled that quite well.

"We're very lucky it leads us in to our next game against the Thunderbirds. We've had a bit of a taste and next week will be another test.''

The Steel's win was built on a dominant start to the second quarter, in which it extended a one-point lead to a 37-27 buffer at halftime.

The home side, which led 17-16 at the break, went on a 9-2 scoring run to begin the second spell as it stretched the lead to 26-18.

The Fever never recovered from that period and, although it won the fourth quarter 18-15, was playing catch-up for the rest of the match.

The Steel's early second-quarter burst to blow the game open had a bit of everything.

Defenders Storm Purvis and Jane Watson again teamed up to get in the way of the Fever's attack; Gina Crampton and Shannon Francois lobbed some beautifully weighted balls into the circle; Fowler-Reid displayed agility and strength under the hoop and Te Paea Selby-Rickit showed off her play-making skills with some athletic touches.

All the while, captain Wendy Frew was leading the effort in mid-court as the Fever found it increasingly hard to penetrate the home side's defence.

At halftime, the Steel led deflections 12-3 and was shooting at 97%.

"Our second quarter was huge,'' Taurua said.

"We put pressure on right throughout the court. When they [the Fever players] received the ball, we had somebody on their bodies or in front of them.

"Storm and Jane often get the pickings at the back but we put a lot of pressure on up front.''

Selby-Rickit played a different role from what she has so far this season, predominantly feeding Fowler-Reid and putting up only 13 shots.

Taurua said that had not been planned.

"It was just the way it panned out. They didn't have two defenders on Jhaniele because of their one-on-one style and we had still had two shooters available.''

Selby-Rickit was replaced by Brooke Leaver with about six minutes to go and that was the Steel's only substitution.

She had been suffering from leg cramp in the final 10 minutes in the last couple of games and that was an issue that would have to be looked at, Taurua said.

Crampton continued her strong form this season with a game-high 22 goal assists, 32 centre pass receives and 36 feeds into the circle.

Francois contributed 16 goal assists and 27 feeds.

Despite its unbeaten run, the Steel still had work to do, Taurua said.

"We've just got to keep doing what we're doing and creating more turnovers.

"We need to be getting into the heads of the opposition and contesting the ball all the time, and that's a mental shift.

"We'll need to be tough once again against the Thunderbirds and make sure our bodies are prepared for the battering.''



ANZ Championship
The scores

Southern Steel                                69

Fowler-Reid 59/65, Selby-Rickit 10/13

West Coast Fever                            62

Bassett 44/48, Medhurst 18/19

Quarter scores: 1st, 17-16; 2nd, 37-27; 3rd, 54-44


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