Pulse defeat Magic in Round 1
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse has lived up to pre-season expectations with a 45-33 win over Waikato-BOP Magic on the back of a strong defensive showing.
High hopes have been heaped upon last year’s finalists despite the Pulse fielding the youngest squad in the ANZ Premiership.
They absorbed the early pressure from the Magic and with the combination of their experienced heads firing at the right time, along with the desire shown by the new recruits, the Pulse never looked troubled on the scoreboard.
It was always going to be a big test for the Magic who went into the game without their star import Lenize Potgieter with the shooter still on her comeback from an ankle injury.
That circle experience was sorely missed as youngsters Amorangi Malesala and Monica Falkner struggled to settle against Pulse captain Katrina Grant and former international Sulu Fitzpatrick.
Both attack lines were given a stern opening test for the season in what proved a strong defensive game early on with plenty of turnovers – eight apiece in just the first quarter.
The Pulse were first to find their rhythm as they jumped out to a four-goal lead mid-way through the first spell as the Magic grappled to penetrate the yellow wall.
But it proved just as tough at the other end with former Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua and Kelly Jury finding their spark late in the quarter.
New Pulse recruit Aliyah Dunn faced a baptism of fire after being given the nod for the shooting bib, the long reach of Kopua and Jury a tough prospect.
But she had the advantage of Silver Fern Ameliaranne Ekenasio on hand to absorb some of the pressure.
The long arms of Pulse defender Karin Burger – pushed out to wing with the inclusion of Fitzpatrick into the side – stymied the Magic’s flow up front but she found herself in early trouble with the umpires earning a warning before halftime.
She made way for young defender Renee Savai’inaea in the third stanza who made a seamless transition in what was her ANZ Premiership debut.
The Magic were forced to make more changes in their shooting circle with Falkner heading to the bench late in the first half after taking a heavy knock into the goal post. Young goal attack Harley Smith joined Malesala in the circle.
Malesala took her opportunity on court with a solid performance at goal shooter, landing 23 goals from 29 attempts, while Kopua was another to shine for the Magic picking up plenty of ball with her timing and determination.
The Pulse’s confidence grew as the game went on – Fitzpatrick and Grant attempting a defensive lift in the second spell – their mid-court showing speed and flair while the shooting circle was superior in accuracy.
Coach Yvette McCausland-Durie made a number of changes as the clock counted down in the fourth spell with Grant moving back to goal keeper, Burger returning at goal defence and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan making an appearance at wing attack.