AVIS Magic finally took vengeance on arch-rivals MG Mystics, and their compelling 54-42 victory saw them bound over the defending champions into third spot on the ANZ Premiership ladder.

In their previous two encounters this season, Mystics had the upper hand. But this time, at the Trusts Arena in Auckland, Magic took control during a massive second quarter and through a composed team effort never relinquished their lead.

While the Mystics slipped back to fourth, the game also marked the quiet return of their goal shoot Grace Nweke, out with a knee injury for seven matches this season. With Mystics coach Tia Winikerei looking to progressively reintegrate her into the team, Nweke played just 15 minutes in the match.

But when she came on, the Mystics were already trailing by 12, and Magic defenders Georgia Takarangi and Erena Mikaere made sure Nweke’s comeback was an uncomfortable one. Mystics still took some solace from her return and from drawing the second half.

It was also a milestone moment for strong Magic attackers Claire O’Brien and Saviour Tui playing their 50th national league matches ­– up against their old side.

The Mystics, who again started without Peta Toeava who’s recovering from a knee injury, were forced to take the long way round to get to shooters Hannah Glen and Filda Vui in the early stages of the clash.  A cloying Magic defence forced the home side into making basic errors, and the Magic capitalised to lead 8-4.

That’s when the Mystics brought veteran Kayla Johnson on at centre for Katie Te Ao, and the injection of leadership up front saw the Mystics score the next four goals and draw level.

Goal keep Carys Stythe’s long levers proved effective in the Mystics’ defence, but Tui wasn’t fazed and shot perfectly as the Magic led 13-11 at the first break.

The Magic rapidly increased their lead to 11 when they resumed, with the dangerous combination of Georgie Edgecombe, Takarangi and Mikaere heavily disrupting the Mystics attack.  

Standing strong – and often alone – in the circle, Tui shot confidently (who ended the match on 34 from 39) deftly supported by Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Magic had scored 10 to the Mystics’ two, when the Mystics made major changes through court. Johnson returned to centre, Dani Binks went to goal attack, and Catherine Hall came on at goal keep, but the damage had been done.

Mikaere and Takarangi were all over the Mystics shooters in the last few minutes of the half, and the Magic left for the changerooms 30-18 in front.

A cheering home crowd heralded the return of Nweke at the start of the third quarter, with Michaela Sokolich-Beatson at centre. It was a wobbly restart for the goal shoot, shooting 10 from 13.   

Ariana Cable-Dixon did a stellar job calmly controlling the attack and feeding Tui from centre, and Edgecombe was balletic in scooping up unexpected ball.

Mystics lost the third spell by only one goal, but were 45-32 in arrears going into the final quarter.

With Hannah Glen back at goal shoot, the Mystics had a revival winning the final quarter by one (Te Ao making two snappy intercepts), but the dominance of Takarangi and Mikaere never relented ­– making 13 gains between them.

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