Steel set the bar with dominant display over Tactix
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel’s ardent fans have welcomed their new-look shooting circle with open arms as the southern recruits spearheaded a surprise and commanding ANZ Premiership win.
Pundits had The Good Oil Tactix as strong favourites for the Round 1 match at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill, but it was a hungry hometown team which set the bar, dominating in all areas, for a 54-36 victory on Sunday night.
It is only within the last few weeks that Steel coach Reinga Bloxham has been able to work with her entire squad – English import George Fisher, who arrived in the country late last month, still finding her bearings in the Deep South.
But it was the Steel which looked to have the more polished combinations as they showed plenty of desire and passion for the win.
They made the early break to jump to a 6-3 lead before the Tactix, thanks to the defensive presence of Karin Burger, clawed their way back to level the scores 11-11 by the quarter break.
But from there the match belonged to the Steel with Fisher and fellow new recruit, Tiana Metuarau, showing just how potent their combination will be over time.
Despite having only made their introductions just weeks before the start of the ANZ Premiership, the duo looked assured playing with speed, flair and accuracy.
Metuarau, who moved south for more game time in the goal attack bib, played a strong feeding role while Fisher picked up the heavy shooting load, landing 46 of her 49 attempts at goal.
Their confidence was infectious as the Steel went from strength to strength, feeding off the Tactix’ errors and a run of six goals giving them a comfortable 25-19 advantage going into the main break.
The Tactix defensive unit, featuring Silver Ferns Jane Watson and Burger, won enough ball but nothing went right for the visitors up front as the loss of injured goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who is nursing an ankle injury suffered during pre-season, could prove telling over the next few weeks.
Their static shooting circle and limited options made it easy pickings for Steel defenders Taneisha Fifita and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit who were quick to any loose ball.
The Steel’s midcourt trio of Shannon Saunders, Kate Heffernan and Renee Savai’inaea also worked well as a unit showing patience and disrupting any flow the Tactix tried to muster.
Saunders, in her new role of captain, led from the front with her sharp eye, pass and drive helping to put the Steel in the box seat.
With a commanding lead in the third spell, Bloxham turned to her bench shifting Saunders to centre and giving Ali Wilshier her Steel debut at wing attack.
Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek also looked to her bench in a bid to stem the Steel run of goals with Burger moving to the wing, Sophia Fenwick coming on at goal defence and Jess Prosser returning to the court in place of Hannah Glen.
But the turnovers kept coming, 26 in total, in an area the Tactix will need to address before their road trip to Auckland to play the Stars.