The AVIS Magic were forced to dig deep in the second half to overcome the visiting Ascot Park Hotel Steel, 48-41, at Globox Arena in Hamilton on Monday night.

 In a fragmented game dominated by defence, the Steel held the lead throughout the first half, though never by more than three goals.

But the injection of calmness and experience in Ariana Cable-Dixon and Ivana Rowland helped the Magic to settle into their rhythm in the second half and gain an important win that keeps them in reach of third spot on the ANZ Premiership ladder.

The Magic defence of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Takarangi were outstanding from the get-go and kept the Steel shooters down at 67 percent shooting success. They claimed four intercepts and 16 gains between them.

Steel started strongly, scoring three goals before Magic even opened their account.

The Magic struggled to find avenues through to their shooters with a wall of pink and blue defence throughout the midcourt; Kate Heffernan leading by example at centre.

But it wasn’t all rosy for the Steel attack, up against the long arms of Mikaere, who snapped up two intercepts and three gains in the first quarter. But the Magic failed to turn all their gains into goals, until the final minutes of the quarter when they closed a three-goal deficit to even the scores.

Up 10-9 at the first break, Steel continued to smother the Magic attack, who were caught out too often pondering where to pass. The Steel defensive pairing of Abby Lawson and Jeanté Strydom made movement difficult for Magic shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Saviour Tui.

At the opposite end, Takarangi used her smarts and speed to flummox the Steel shooters (who put up 11 more shots in the first half but were let down by their lack of accuracy).

Both sides were guilty of patchy play and disconnection on attack, and the scoreboard ticked over slowly.

Ariana Cable-Dixon was brought on at centre and Ivana Rowland at goal shoot for the home side which helped the Magic to tie the scores again, but they still couldn’t build momentum.

Steel turned to a new goal shoot, Summer Temu, who helped them to reclaim the lead, 22-20, at halftime.

The wing defences on both sides made their presence felt in the third quarter: Renee Savai’inea was all over the Magic’s midcourters (who built to four intercepts and five gains for the match).

Georgie Edgecombe was a power of strength for the Magic – her intercept contributed to the Magic taking a three-goal lead for the first time and holding on to it going into the final stanza, 34-31.

But the real story of the second half was Ekenasio (20 from 22 attempts) finally able to take charge in the Magic circle, gaining confidence with pinpoint feeds from Cable-Dixon, and the sure hands of Rowland (16 from 17), and the gap grew out of the Steel’s reach in the final 15 minutes.

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