With Thunderbirds making records for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, the visitors were looking for redemption after a league record low score and a four-game losing streak.
And they came within a whisker of upsetting the high-flying Magic with a forceful outing to showcase their talent.
Magic made the better start but the Thunderbirds slowly built on their confidence to wrest the initiative their way, a storming third stanza giving them all the impetus and leaving the Magic faltering.
Struggling to get their attack line going, Magic had much to thank Kopua and her defensive partner Leana de Bruin for as the pair left a telling imprint with their contributions.
It was a similar story for the Thunderbirds where the defensive line of captain Renae Hallinan, Kate Shimmin and Rebecca Bulley played inspiring roles in shutting down Magic’s previously heralded attacking prowess.
All tied up with just minutes to go, a Thunderbirds held ball opened the door for Magic, Ellen Halpenny coming to the party for Magic with some long range shots to seal what at times had seemed like an unlikely win.
Magic presented with their successful line-up of recent weeks while Thunderbirds opted to switch the defensive positions of Bulley (goalkeeper) and Shimmin (goal defence) in an effort to nullify the impact of in-form home-team shooter Jo Harten.
The visitors looked a different side from previous weeks, involving influential shooter Carla Borrego early on as the Jamaican import showed a growing return of confidence.
At the other end, unflappable England import Harten continued her impressive form with a classy start under the hoop.
Both shooters played prominent roles before the Kopua/de Bruin combination got into the act for Magic. The pair was instrumental in helping Magic forge a five-goal lead through their efforts on getting hand to intercept and rebound ball.
Thunderbirds fought back strongly but another surge helped re-establish Magic’s buffer when they led 16-11 at the first break.
Thunderbirds ensured Magic didn’t have everything their own way with a strong reply on the resumption.
Staunch defence from Hallinan, Madeleine Proud, Shimmin and Bulley did a sterling job in holding up Magic’s flow while their own passage to goal grew ever-more free flowing through the creative play of Erin Bell, Borrego excelling in her niche under the hoop.
Magic had to work overtime to get the ball through court, the Thunderbirds vigorously contesting every pass and the home team relying on the superb qualities of Kopua and de Bruin to keep their noses in front 27-24 at the main break.
Showing more intensity, the momentum swung Thunderbirds way in an exciting and tense third stanza. The visitors got away to the best of starts, Proud and Emily Beaton delivering quality ball to an impressive Borrego who shot her team into the lead midway through the quarter.
Clearly rattled and under all sorts of pressure, Magic faced a big battle to get the ball into their circle in the face of an enormous Thunderbirds defensive effort. As a result, there were some wobbly moments for Harten and Halpenny, forcing the Magic into chase mode. The teams went goal-for-goal in a thrilling finish to the stanza, a Bell goal on the buzzer giving the visitors a 39-38 lead at the final break and the promise of an exciting finish.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse