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Steel too strong for Firebirds

NZN 11/06/2016

Southern Steel won the battle of the giant Jamaicans as they cruised to a 66-51 trans-Tasman netball league win over the Queensland Firebirds in Dunedin on Saturday.

In the absence of injured Diamonds defender Laura Geitz, the Firebirds 1.96m shooter Romelda Aiken slotted in at the less accustomed position of goal keep.

Queensland coach Roselee Jencke was keen to rein in the Steel's own 1.98m Jamaican sharpshooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, but the gambit never really paid off.

It took a little time for the Steel's midcourt to adjust their feed into the circle, but the home team still took a 14-8 lead into the first break.

With stand-in shooter Chelsea Lemke missing all three of her attempts on goal, Jencke was forced into an early substitution in bringing on Beryl Friday for the second spell.

The 21-year-old looked solid in sinking eight from nine, but it made little difference to the scoreline as the Steel stretched out to a 31-19 lead at halftime.

Aiken's return to goal shoot in the third quarter settled the Firebirds midcourt, and they took the spell 18-16 to narrow the Steel's lead to 47-37 with 15 minutes remaining.

But the Steel were all business in the final 15 minutes, taking the spell 19-14 to secure their ninth win of the season.

While Fowler-Reid's 51 from 57 was key for the Steel, the Selby-Rickit sisters were also hugely influential.

Goal attack Te Paea sunk 15 from 17, impressing with her work outside the circle and astute feeding, while goal defence Te Huinga Reo had her best game of the season in keeping Firebirds goal attack Gretel Tippett under constant pressure.

The Steel are now the only unbeaten team in the ANZ Championship, stretching out their commanding lead in the New Zealand conference to 11 points over the Magic.

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