Two major upsets in round one of the ANZ Championship have set the tone for looks to be the toughest edition yet of netball's trans-Tasman competition.
A new-look Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel tipped over the First Windows Waikato-BOP Magic 49-47 in Invercargill while the Melbourne Vixens ended a 15-game winning streak from the defending champion Queensland Firebirds to win 47-42 in Brisbane.
Few would have picked the two teams to topple their more fancied opponents but both the Steel and Vixens showed plenty of composure to come from behind and grab maximum points in the opening round.
"It's a huge win for us," Steel goal attack Donna Wilkins told Sky Sport after beating the Magic. "We had that self-belief but I don't know if anyone else rated us."
Magic captain Laura Langman was "very disappointed" to lose their opening match and believed they became hesitant in the deciding quarter.
"We stopped letting the ball go and got a little bit over cautious."
The Magic looked to be making a match-winning break after halftime when they opened up a six-goal lead with 15 minutes to play.
But the Steel started strongly in the fourth spell with the defensive unit forcing the Magic into errors and with five minute on the clock, the scores were locked at 44-44.
Changes in Steel's midcourt also paid dividends in the fourth quarter with new centre Phillipa Finch helping to lift the intensity.
The links between Wilkins and Steel captain Jodi Brown were also polished despite the shooting combination being a new one and the duo look set to be one of the toughest to break this season.
Buoyed by a parochial home crowd, the Steel kept their composure to win by two goals.
The Haier Pulse came close to netting their own upset before falling to the LG Mystics 47-51 in Auckland on Sunday.
It took some personnel changes in the deciding quarter to lift last year's grand finalists with scores tied 37-37 going into the last 15 minutes of play.
Mystics' coach Debbie Fuller benched Silver Fern Maria Tutaia for Grace Rasmussen who moved into the shooting circle from the wing role.
Rasmussen repaid the faith with a composed performance, netting six from seven goals to help the Mystics edge ahead.
New recruit Charlotte Kight also proved an impact player, picking up a number of key deflections late in the game.
But the Pulse proved they will be tough to beat this season with their defensive unit of Katrina Grant, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Joline Henry spoiling plenty of the Mystics' attacking moves.
The Pulse will be left ruing its accuracy in the shooting circle with the visitors putting up six more attempts at goal than the Mystics.
It proved a tough trip across the Tasman for the Easiyo Tactix who suffered a 20-goal lost to a vastly improved West Coast Fever unit, going down 35-55 in Perth.
The Tactix started strongly with their frontline of Ellen Halpenny, Jo Harten, Anna Thompson and Maree Bowden combining well while defenders Anna Galvan, Jo Trip and Bessie Manu were also unsettling the Fever attack.
But a five-goal run late in the first quarter and in the opening stages of the second put the hosts in command.
The difference blew out to 13 goals by the three quarter mark with the Tactix struggling to shut down Caitlin Bassett and Catherine Cox who were serviced well by midcourter Ashleigh Brazill.
The Tactix should be buoyed by some well-drilled patches of play but will be working on consistency ahead of their second round match at home.
Meanwhile, the Vixens showed they would also be a team to watch despite losing inspirational goal attack Sharelle McMahon who withdrew from the championship having announced her pregnancy.
The new shooting combinations took time to settle and it was debutante Karyn Howarth who, after coming on during the second quarter, helped lift the Vixens back from a seven-goal deficit.
A change in the defence unit also proved telling for the Vixens with Geva Mentor moving from wing defence back into the more familiar goal keep role with Julie Corletto replacing her on the wing.
Mentor kept the pressure on the Firebirds' ace, Romelda Aiken, and as the errors started to mount, the Vixens' were quick to pounce, leading by four goals at the three-quarter mark.
They held their nerve despite a flurry of Firebirds goals late in the fourth quarter, sending the message they remain a force in the ANZ Championship with their five-goal win over the defending champions.
The Adelaide Thunderbirds produced a strong third quarter performance to silence the NSW Swifts en route to a 57-40 win in Adelaide.
Shooter Carla Borrego was an imposing target for the Thunderbirds and when their attacking links came together after halftime, the Swifts had no answer in stopping the Jamaican scorer.
Thunderbirds new recruit, Renae Hallinan, proved her value on defence while wing attack Emily Beaton provided pin-point accuracy with her feeds to Borrego.
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