Red-hot Pulse seal minor premiership
Rebounding from a shock loss a week ago, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse have powered their way directly into the ANZ Premiership Grand Final with a storming 68-42 victory over the Northern Stars in Wellington.
It was a typically controlled, but polished performance from the Pulse, who incrementally built their lead by dominating every quarter of the match, returning to the mode their fans have become accustomed to seeing.
One of the stand-out players for the Pulse was their captain Katrina Rore, who led by example, snaffling five key intercepts and five rebounds during the game.
The Stars suffered without the leadership of veteran defender Leana de Bruin who was nursing a niggling injury. They will now meet the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel twice in the space of a week – in their final pool match, and then the Elimination Final.
With the Stars already through to the Finals Series, coach Kiri Wills felt there was no need to push de Bruin out onto the court.
Kayla Cullen slipped back into goal defence with Storm Purvis at goal keep, until three minutes left in the quarter when Kate Burley came out, indicating the Stars intended to rotate their circle defence through the match.
The Pulse played a game of patience to start with, with Claire Kersten and Whitney Souness taking their time to feed Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio. It paid off, and after an early run of four goals, they led 10-5.
Katrina Rore and Sulu Fitzpatrick made life difficult from the outset for Stars shooters Maia Wilson and Charlee Hodges, with Wilson absorbing most of the pressure. It would be the way it played out for the Stars shooters all night – with Wilson’s goal attacks failing to support her with their own attempts.
With Dunn and Ekenasio sharing the load at the other end, the Pulse took a handy 18-13 lead into the first break.
The Pulse upped the ante straight off the bench for the second quarter and did not back off.
While wing defence Holly Fowler and wing attack Mila Reuelu-Buchanan threw themselves at everything for the Stars, and Reuelu-Buchanan showing great vision down court, the Stars couldn’t bridge the gap and trailed 33-23 at halftime.
Tiana Metuarau then entered the game at goal attack for the Pulse and set up Dunn with almost faultless precision in her feeding. With Dunn putting up almost all of the shots, she pushed their lead well into double figures.
The Pulse put on the kind of relentless, exacting performance they’ve shown almost all season in the third quarter, winning it by 11 to lead 51-30.
After a strong game at wing defence, Karin Burger played a clever cameo at goal keep in the final minutes, stealing two spectacular intercepts to finish the game.
Maddy Gordon’s brief appearance at wing attack was also a reminder of how strong the Pulse’s bench is this season.
Ekenasio was the shooter of the match, with 33 from 37 (89 percent).