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Southern Steel too strong for Vixens

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/06/2016

Southern Steel continued their inexorable march to the trans-Tasman netball league finals with a 65-56 win over Melbourne Vixens in Invercargill on Saturday.

The only unbeaten team in the league, the Steel's win entrenched their position at the top of the New Zealand conference, 13 points ahead of the second-placed Magic with just one round robin match remaining.

It also secured them top spot overall in the 10-team league, with the potential to host the grand final.

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Te Paea Selby-Rickit played a key role in the win, shooting faultlessly in the first quarter to give the home team a narrow 18-16 lead at the first break.

The Steel's composure through-court was also impressive in converting turnover ball, right from the first whistle when goal keep Jane Watson snaffled the rebound from Vixen shooter Karyn Bailey's first-up miss.

The Vixens upped their work-rate in the defensive third in the second quarter, ramping up the pressure on what had been an easy feed into the 1.98m Fowler-Reid.

Circle defenders Jo Weston and Geva Mentor began to generate turnover ball, and shooters Bailey and 20-year-old goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld were meticulous in their conversion.

Bailey, who played with a heavily strapped left knee, was replaced midway through the quarter by Kimberly Commane, who slotted in smoothly in nailing three from three.

But although the Vixens shot at 100 per cent for the quarter, their shooting volume was well down and the Steel took a 33-29 lead into halftime.

The Vixens missed Bailey's height and accuracy as the third spell wore on, the Steel embarking on an 8-2 scoring run early on to open out a 41-31 lead after seven minutes.

Vixens coach Simone McKinnis replaced Commane with Emma Ryde soon after, the 1.97m 19-year-old effective in posting up to provide more of a target for her midcourt.

So although the Steel opened out to an 11-goal lead midway through the spell, the Vixens battled their way back to cut the deficit to 47-40 at the three-quarter mark.

However, the Steel maintained their focus right to the final whistle, taking the final quarter 18-16 to wrap up the comfortable win.

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