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Netball - 06. March 2011.

Mystics upset Vixens with storming finish at the ANZ Championships

A storming final quarter propelled the Northern Mystics to a thrilling 56-54 win over the previously unbeaten Melbourne Vixens in ANZ Championship action in Auckland today.

Mystics headlined their championship credentials on the back of an outstanding effort from Silver Fern in waiting Catherine Latu, who was near-flawless in her positioning, vision and ability to get the ball through the hoop. In a match-winning display, Latu converted 40 goals from 42 attempts for a 95 percent success rate.

Trailing for much of the match, Mystics outplayed the fast-starting Vixens with a stirring second half as the visitors faded in and out of the game.

Already missing Joline Henry through injury, the Mystics defensive stocks were further depleted when Rachel Rasmussen was also ruled out. Adding to the mounting injury count, starting wing attack Grace Rasmussen tweaked an ankle during the warm-up and was hastily replaced by veteran Australian import Megan Dehn. Goalkeeper Jess Moulds found herself in the starting line-up for the first time.

There were no surprises in the talent-laden Vixens, who made an early statement with a rollicking start to the game, the inimitable Sharelle McMahon leading the charge.

The lively goal attack was in irresistible form, popping up in all areas of the court. Strong on the centre pass, McMahon’s speed was more than evident as she set up play in the attacking third, often taking the next pass into the circle before seamlessly working in tandem with her shooting partner Kate Beveridge.

The visitors waltzed out to a five-goal lead in next to no time before Mystics had really got into gear. Latu was a pivotal figure for the home team, showing her full range of skills and pinpoint accuracy to help peg back the deficit.

Mystics failed to make the most of their turnover ball but did enough to ensure a classic contest lay in wait as Vixens headed to the first break 15-13 ahead.

There was no lessening of intent or intensity on the resumption between a willing pair of combatants, Mystics firing the first shots as they edged to within one goal on the back of some inspiring play. But they were also dogged by a mixture of the sublime and the silly. In an ongoing trend during the course of the match, momentum swung back and forth as Vixens replied in kind with a strong surge of their own.

A run of five straight goals via some slick through-court transition handed the initiative back to the visitors. Latu lacked vital support as Mystics broke down on attack due to the constant pressure.

A withering finish to the quarter left Vixens well positioned at 31-26 heading into halftime.

A change to the defence line with the tall timber of Kayla Cullen going to goal defence and Anna Scarlett to goalkeeper helped Mystics put the brakes on the shooting of McMahon and Beveridge as they closed to within one. Restored to health, Grace Rasmussen also found her way to wing attack.

Vixens were forced to dig deep as Mystics proved they were far from done. Terrific defensive pressure from Scarlett and Cullen gleaned more turnover ball as the home team clawed their way back into contention with a tenacious fightback. On their third opportunity, they were able to draw level as each team scrapped and muscled their way towards a thrilling finale, Vixens inching to a 41-40 lead at the last break.

In a big call but one which paid handsome dividends, Mystics replaced Maria Tutaia with Dehn at goal attack as the teams battled goal-for-goal in a pulsating run to the line.
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