Defending champions Southern Steel are back on track in the ANZ Netball Premiership after a 66-46 win over the Canterbury Tactix in Christchurch.
After slipping to an upset loss to the Northern Stars in the opening round, the Steel were quick to redress the balance with a clinical second outing which marked a special occasion for long-serving centre Shannon Saunders.
It was a fitting result for centurion Saunders (nee Francois) who has played all her 100 games in Steel colours.
Missing influential wing attack Erikana Pedersen, who suffered a knee injury in the opening match on Sunday, left the Tactix light on attacking options which was highlighted the longer the game went on.
Without their key pivot, the Tactix struggled to effectively penetrate in their attacking third, the Steel taking full advantage while having the luxury of giving all 12 of their players, including training partners, a run during the game.
Great timing followed by quick scoring produced a snappy opening from the Steel, having slotted three unanswered goals within the first minute of play. It was all the Steel early on - their accuracy and a five-goal streak sending an ominous warning.
With the Steel slowing their attacking momentum, the Tactix eventually found their groove, finishing the quarter with a flourish. The athletic exploits of defender Jane Watson and growing presence of shooter Ellie Bird kept the home side well in the contest as they narrowed the gap to just one when the Steel led 16-15 at the first break.
The tight tussle continued on the resumption as a goal-for-goal stalemate ensued, the Steel finally breaking the shackles on the back of fresh legs.
Teenaged defender Taneisha Fifita, who made such an impressive debut on Sunday, added extra height under the Tactix hoop after coming from the bench, coinciding with a lift in intensity from the Steel. With Te Huinga Selby-Rickit moving up court to goal defence for the visitors, the Tactix also made defensive changes with Sophia Fenwick moving into goalkeeper and Watson slotting in one place up court.
However, it was the Steel who benefitted most with shooter Lenize Potgieter a model of consistency in her second match for her new team. With just two misses, the South African import helped propel the Steel to a handy 35-28 lead at the main break.
Fifita continued to enhance her credentials during the third term, her spoiling tactics winning plenty of turnover opportunities as the Steel moved into overdrive. Multiple personnel and positional changes had little effect on the Tactix fortunes against a mounting scoreline.
With the lead blowing out, the Steel showcased their depth of talent at both ends of the court, restricting the Tactix to just eight goals as they skipped into the last break with a commanding 52-36 lead.