Pulse cement top spot with big win over Steel
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse rebounded in style to break their Invercargill duck, outplaying the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel and posting a decisive 49-34 win on Saturday.
Coming off their first loss of the season, the Pulse were in imperious form in gaining their first win at ILT Stadium Southland since the inception of the ANZ Premiership in 2017 while also celebrating captain Katrina Rore’s 200th combined national league match and Yvette McCausland-Durie’s 100th match as coach of the Pulse.
Facing their second big challenge in two days after upsetting the Northern Mystics, the Steel could not reproduce their heroics or intent of 24 hours earlier and were on the backfoot from the outset against the Pulse.
The result cemented the Pulse’s standing at the top of the table and they now can’t be caught in the remaining rounds leading in to the Finals Series on August 23.
With replacement shooter Ellen Halpenny getting more comfortable by the moment, there were no surprises when she was included in the Steel’s starting seven while the Pulse retained their regulars of recent weeks.
After a flurry of early turnovers, it was the Pulse who settled the best before going on to stamp their mark on a dominant opening quarter.
The defending champions quickly silenced the parochial home crowd with a crisp and productive return on attack while the long reaches of in-circle defenders Katrina Rore and Kelly Jury caused all sorts of problems for the Steel shooters.
The Pulse successfully slowed the Steel’s attacking drive while enjoying nearly twice as much ball as they bolted into the first break with a decisive 16-7 lead.
Dogged midcourter Kendall Corkery replaced Kate Heffernan at wing defence for the home side on the resumption as the Steel showed a stronger resolve to compete on more level terms.
There was more impetus from the centre pass but the Steel failed to string enough phases together to make real inroads. The Pulse’s defensive quartet were instrumental in creating hesitancy and lack of flow at the Steel’s attacking end with wing attack Maddy Gordon prominent with her speed and ability to be first to the loose ball.
Rore and Jury kept Halpenny and Kalifa McCollin under close scrutiny near the Steel hoop while at the other end, the Pulse’s shooting duo of Aliyah Dunn 14/14 and Ameliaranne Ekenasio 12/13 ensured the visitors went to the main break well-placed when leading 26-16.
Goal defence Abby Erwood, in her 50th match, replaced Taneisha Fifita for the second half but it remained a hard grind for the Steel. The Pulse’s blanket-like defence left little room for the Steel’s attackers to gain any momentum while leaving limited options.
Halpenny made way for Kiana Pelasio as the Steel searched for ways to make inroads but the southerners’ struggled to improve their shooting percentages. Jury was in menacing form in disrupting the shot, while at the other end Dunn and Ekenasio missed one apiece as the visitors continued to extend their lead.
Tiana Metuarau took over from Gordon halfway through as the Pulse limited their opponents to just seven goals when taking a dominant 38-23 lead into the last break.
Both teams made changes for differing reasons in the run home, the Steel to give others opportunities while the Pulse with another game to play on Monday, taking the opportunity to give seasoned veterans Rore and Claire Kersten a break.