Pulse secure dominant win over Steel
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse firmed up their prospects of making the Finals Series with a clinical 59-49 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Invercargill on Saturday.
With dramatic outcomes in the two previous matches between the pair this season, the Pulse made sure there would be no repeat in the third after the teams came into this clash at a win apiece.
Getting away to a good start at the Steel’s fortress of ILT Stadium Southland helped defuse the crowd impact for the Pulse as they went on to lead at each quarter break while building on their dominance as they went.
Missing just three shots between them, shooters Aliyah Dunn (44/45) and Tiana Metuarau (14/16) set the platform for a strong performance which was endorsed in perfect fashion by the supporting Pulse cast.
Without midcourters Renee Savai’inaea and Kate Hartley along with shooter Saviour Tui due to illness, the Steel introduced Sarapheinna Woulf at wing defence while George Fisher and Georgia Heffernan picked up the shooting duties.
The Pulse remained with their starting seven of recent weeks, rock-solid centre Erikana Pedersen lining up for her 100th national league match.
Both sides provided plenty of energetic defensive pressure early on but it was the Pulse who got away to the liveliest of starts. Punishing anything loose, the visitors were reliable with their turnover conversion rate as they quickly pushed out to an 8-2 lead.
Respective wing attacks, Shannon Saunders, for the home side, and Whitney Souness, provided the impetus on attack for both sides as more flow found its way into the game. However, it was the more consistent Pulse, with shooters Metuarau and Dunn gaining the upper hand, who took a 14-10 lead into the first break.
A lift in defensive pressure on the resumption gave the Pulse the best of starts, with in-circle defenders Kristiana Manu’a and Kelly Jury providing the squeeze on their opposing shooters.
Never a team to be under-estimated, the Steel were far from done, finding more flow on attack through the ever-reliable Saunders, who delivered perfect feeds to prolific shooter Fisher and the deceptive presence of defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit ensured the home side had their moments and opportunities.
The Steel forced the Pulse to play patiently at times, and showing much more assuredness on attack than their last outing, the visitors did just that, finding a near-flawless Dunn on a regular basis in a handy position under the hoop.
With Dunn shooting a perfect 24 from 24, the Pulse’s greater accuracy helped them hit the main break with a 30-24 lead.
The Steel made a storming start to the third stanza, closing the gap immediately but the Pulse were able to absorb before launching their own reply.
With playmaking goal attack Metuarau instrumental in setting up Dunn with plenty of space under the hoop, key feeders Souness and Pedersen were able to deliver quality ball into her hands.
Souness and Metuarau were in the thick of action while at the other end the Pulse defenders were unrelenting with their smothering presence in slowing the Steel’s momentum, Kelly Jury stumping up with four intercepts and seven deflections.
When she got the ball, Fisher was deadly accurate while centre Kate Heffernan and Saunders were tireless in their endeavours but the constant pressure took a toll, the visitors continuing to build on their buffer when leading 46-37 at the last turn.