Rampant Pulse raises ANZ Premiership bar yet again
The Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse machine is well-tuned, fully fuelled and showing no signs of slowing down in the 2018 ANZ Premiership.
Speed, connections, timing and accuracy – they brought it all to Porirua to earn a record breaking 71-40 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel on Wednesday night.
It was a frenetic start from the Pulse as they showcased all qualities in the opening 15 minutes and never really took their foot off the gas as they made a statement for all ANZ Premiership contenders to heed.
Tiana Metuarau led the masterclass up front with her quick release into her teenage shooting buddy Aliyah Dunn, as the young duo showed immense maturity in their understanding between each other. Dunn again brought a stand-out radar netting 50 from 54 for the Pulse.
Not to be outdone by her rookie team-mates, veteran defender Sulu Fitzpatrick was hungry for any ball that came within reach and her combination with captain Katrina Grant.
Both teams netted their first attempts but from there it was all yellow.
The victory must have ticked all the performance boxes for the Pulse but they also re-wrote the record books as they netted their highest score in the ANZ Premiership, their biggest winning margin ever in their eleven year history and also the first time they have won five games on the trot. The Pulse is also the first team to crack 70 this year.
They had the usually unflappable Steel rattled after just five minutes of play, the speed of their ball release leaving their opponent baffled.
It forced Steel coach Reinga Bloxham to go to their bench with four minutes left in the first quarter but it was at the front end of the court, where Jennifer O’Connell made way for Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Olivia Bates came on at goal attack.
The 21-9 quarter time scoreline prompted more changes for the Steel with Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, who started the game at goal keeper, moved back to the more familiar goal defence spot and Abby Erwood making way for Courtney Elliott.
Both changes looked to work for the Steel as they slowed the steam-rolling efforts of the Pulse, particularly disrupting the rhythm on attack.
But only briefly. The Pulse absorbed the mini challenge from the Steel and shifted gear again – from the thundering ball delivered by Fitzpatrick from the back, to speed of ball around the circle and the accuracy from their shooters in it, there was no stopping a rampant home team.
They were able to convert much of the turnover ball which only made the hole deeper for Steel to dig themselves out of.
A staggering run of 10 goals late in the first half stunned almost everyone at the Te Rauparaha Arena, even the most fervent Pulse fans.
Coach Yvette McCausland-Durie resisted making too many changes despite enjoying a 38-17 half-time lead with goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio the only fresh legs for the third stanza.
The brakes were slowly applied by the Steel as O’Connell returned to the action and netted nine from 10 attempts – the visitors coming within one goal of the Pulse during the spell.
A little over six minutes left in the game and McCausland-Durie finally emptied her bench with Metuarau back on court, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan coming on at wing attack and Renee Savai’inaea to wing defence.
A difficult night for the Steel hit another low when defender Dani Gray left the court with what looked like a serious knee injury late in the game.