ANZ Premiership: Northern Stars win battle of Auckland against Northern Mystics in historic extra-time thriller

Northern Stars have beat competition leaders Northern Mystics 79-77 in extended extra-time in an ANZ Premiership netball clash at Auckland.

The Stars, who were in fourth place going into game two of the Northern Challenge, faced a must-win scenario, and goal attack Amorangi Malesala fittingly clinched the result, after sending the game into overtime with a stunning clutch shot at 67-all.

This was the first ever ANZ Premiership match decided in extended extra time.

Mystics in action against Stars.
Mystics in action against Stars. Photo credit: Michael Bradley

The lead switched back and forth with dizzying regularity, and the first time this season the two-goal lead rule determined the winners.

There was nothing between the two sides throughout the entire final four periods of play. Neither side were about to give up an errant pass or a missed shot, and it was a midcourt steal from Malesala at 77-all that saw the jubilant Stars finally get a winning break.

The Mystics remain at the top of the table after their third loss of the season, but their offcourt woes continue, with Michaela Sokolich-Beatson out of the game with a tummy bug and Monica Falkner sidelined for a second straight match.

The Stars started the game with a punch, a tip from Kelera Nawai-Caucau quickly setting the rhythm, which saw them rush out to a three-goal lead that then turned into a five-goal run.

The vision of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Gina Crampton into shooter Maia Wilson, who managed to free herself from the rangy Mystics defenders, had the Stars up 11-4.

The Mystics weren't thrown by the growing gap, with an intercept from Katie Te Ao - filling Sokolich-Beatson's shoes at wing defence - bringing the home side back into the game.

With Aussie ring-in Claire O'Brien releasing quick bullet passes into Grace Nweke, the Mystics confidence lifted and the gap reduced to two in the last minute.

Up 19-16 at the first break, the Stars struggled to find their shooters under pressure from the Mystics midcourt and the Mystics took the lead for the first time, 22-20.

With little in it, as the advantage swung back to the Stars, Elle Temu showing no effects of the ankle injury that had sidelined her earlier in the competition.

The rivals went goal for goal for much of the quarter, until Phoenix Karaka's dogged defence turned the tide back in favour of the Mystics.

Peta Toeava used her full repertoire of quick flat no-look passes, mixed with long bombs into Nweke and with the goal shoot in much more confident form than the day before, the Mystics held a 37-35 halftime advantage.

With the same number of attempts and almost identical accuracy, little separated the two sides, but the Mystics appeared to be taking control early in the third quarter.

The Stars made an important change, bringing goal attack Jamie Hume into the game for Amorangi Malesala, when the Mystics were four up. Two smart steals from Stythe, taking advantage of the new shooting combo settling in, extended their lead to seven.

The Stars weren't done, spectacularly lifting their defensive pressure through the court, forcing the Mystics into soft turnovers and closing the gap to one just before the end of the quarter, 52-51.

Leaders Mystics brought Tayla Earle - back from a foot injury - into centre for the final spell. The teams were locked for the next 14 minutes, with very few errors from either side.

At opposite ends, Wilson and Malesala (back in the game), and Nweke and Filda Vui held their nerve under the hoop.

At 67-66 to the Mystics with half a minute left, the Stars played the ball in and out of the circle, until Malesala sunk the equaliser, sending the game into extra time for only the second time this season.

The Mystics tried to kill time with less than a minute left, but Nweke (who finished the game with a mammoth 70 from 75 attempts) missed a penalty right on the whistle to end extra time at 74-all and Malesala, who shot a commendable 27 from 32 and the clinchers, had the last say.