Netball: Southern Steel scrape past Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic to go third in ANZ Premiership

Southern Steel have reclaimed third place in the ANZ Premiership, after a hard-fought 56-54 victory over Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Hamilton.

The Steel are now a point behind Northern Stars and three points ahead of Mainland Tactix, who have a game in hand.

The Magic's 11th straight defeat leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table.

Waikato-Bay of Plenty turned in a much-improved performance from last week, when they lost by 15 goals to the Steel in Invercargill, motivated to deliver for outgoing coach Amigene Metcalfe in the Magic's final game of the season in Hamilton.

But although they pushed the Steel in every quarter and hit a six-goal streak in the final spell, they couldn't pull off victory and the Steel's ability to close the deal under pressure ensured the three points they needed to stay in finals contention.

Before the Magic had time to settle in after the first whistle, the Steel stole a 3-0 lead, with Tiana Metuarau and Grace Namara building on their new combination in the shooting circle.

The Magic rebounded through some excellent in-circle defence from Georgia Tong and Erena Mikaere, who were getting their hands to a wealth of ball. At the other end, Grace Kara was back from injury at wing attack for the Magic and struck up a nice connection with Caitlin Bassett under the post to take the lead for the first time at 7-6.

Both sides were guilty of some sloppy passing and squandering possession, so no team established the upper hand.

A couple of deflections from Mikaere just before the end of the first quarter ensured the Magic had a 12-11 lead at the break.

But the Steel started to settle into a rhythm, with Metuarau showing off her rebounding, shooting and feeding skills in and around the circle.

An intercept from the ever-steady Shannon Saunders (Most Valuable Player of the match) in the last minute took a two-goal lead for the Steel out to four at halftime, 29-25.

The Steel welcomed import shooter George Fisher back to the court, after a couple of weeks off with concussion, and she didn't miss a beat, getting her shooting eye in.

While the Magic closed in again, with Mikaere on fire and Bassett's shooting on song, the Steel then drew back out, with their defensive trio of Taneisha Fifita, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Renee Savai'inaea putting up an impressive wall.

Selby-Rickit left the court with a niggling Achilles injury shortly before the third-quarter break, replaced by Sarahpheinna Woulf, just as the Steel established their biggest lead at that point - six - and led 43-38 going into the final spell.

But it was the Magic who came back to the court with more hunger and an outstanding streak of six goals put them back to within one with 10 minutes left. All seven Magic players on court had a hand in the comeback - displaying some of their best netball of the season - but Mikaere was the stand-out in defence.

Fisher, who'd returned to the bench after a quarter, came back to help calm the Steel shooting circle, when the difference was still one with five minutes to play. She ended the game with impressive 17-from-19 shooting.

In the final two minutes, an intercept from Selby-Rickit, back in the game, secured the win for the Steel.