The Splice Construction Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic have opened their season with a 54-48 victory over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.

Following the Government’s announcement barring crowds over 500 at events in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Steel lost their home crowd advantage at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin.

But neither side lost their intensity and competitiveness in their first game of the season, which was obvious right through the 60-minute battle.

The Magic started strongly to build an early lead, though the Steel battled back hard in the middle quarters, to briefly snatch the advantage. But a concerted team effort by the Magic in the final quarter saw them notch up their first victory over the Steel in ANZ Premiership history.

Goal keep Erena Mikaere - back in her home colours - helped build the early buffer, combining well with another new signing, Holly Fowler, to quickly disrupt the Steel’s new shooting combination of Jen O’Connell and Trinidad & Tobago import Kalifa McCollin.

Although the home side slowly warmed into the game, the Magic were quicker off the mark and built a six-goal advantage.

Abigail Latu-Meafou led the charge on attack for the Magic, standing strong against the Steel defence and feeding accurate goal shoot Kelsey McPhee with clarity. The new midcourt combination of Whitney Souness and Ariana Cable-Dixon (player of the match) were also important in the Magic’s flow through court. 

Cable-Dixon praised their attack for their contribution to the victory. 

“We have some really good connections in our attack and I think it showed tonight.”

The Steel fought back and nabbed three goals in a row just before the first break hooter to close the Magic’s lead to 14-10.

New Magic captain Sam Winders (nee Sinclair) threw herself into so much play in the midcourt defence, and had a royal battle with the Steel’s Gina Crampton.

Just when the Magic would look like they had the upper hand, the Steel would grind it out and close the gap again. 

The Steel shooters of O’Connell and Heffernan ensured the Steel were still in the game, down 27-24, at the halftime break.

The third quarter began with Steel defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit starting strongly, and her own attackers rewarded those efforts by shooting the Steel into the lead, 29-28.

Neither team gave an inch for the rest of the quarter, scoring goal for goal, with the tension telling in some loose passes from both sides. Back-to-back McPhee goals put the Magic back in front, and a long seeking pass from Winders finished off by Latu-Meafou made sure they were up by two, 39-37, heading into the final spell. 

While the Steel brought McCollin back into the shooting circle, the Magic created a new momentum incited by Winders, and went out to five goals up with five minutes left on the clock. McPhee held her composure, and was the most consistent shooter in the match, with 35 from 43 attempts (81 percent). 

Winders was a happy skipper, leading a victory in the first game of her debut season as captain.

“I’m so proud of the girls - and the way they held their composure”.