CENTRAL Pulse have made it back-to-back premierships defeating the Mainland Tactix in a dominant performance from start to finish (43-31). In coach Yvette McCausland-Durie’s final game and captain Katrina Rore’s 150th match the Pulse stepped it up a gear the minute they took the court ,forcing the Tactix to play catch-up netball credit to their strong structures and star power across the court.
The reigning premiers came out with a real fire in the belly in the opening minutes of the quarter with Kelly Jury making her intentions clear, claiming front position up against Ellie Bird to notch up the first intercept of the game and most importantly score off the Tactix centre pass. The Pulse opened up a handy two goal lead with Aliyah Dunn nailing the first for the evening before Ameliaranne Ekenasio hit the scoreboard moments later. After missing the last round of the home and away season Maddy Gordon was determined to leave nothing to chance, showcasing her defensive attributes to set the tone early and reel in an intercept off the Tactix centre pass. Ekenasio dominated at the post and set up a wealth of play in the attacking third to create a four goal to zero lead.
The first goal for the Tactix came through the hands of Te Paea Selby-Rickit at the eight minute mark of the quarter as the side in red started to find their rhythm sinking consecutive goals. Jury continued to toil away doing a wealth of work in defence especially over Bird’s shot while through the midcourt Kimiora Poi highlighted her defensive prowess and read of the play to regain possession and disrupt passages of play from the Pulse. It was blow for blow once both sides settled into the rhythm of the game and got the nerves out of their system but the Pulse were not content with that, increasing their full court defensive pressure and capitalising off turnovers. Gordon was having a blinder getting hands to ball and using her speed to burn down the court and hurt the Tactix in transition as they pulled away in the final minutes of the term to hold a six goal buffer.
Pulse picked up where they left off with an early win through an errant pass in which they capitalised on through the hands of Ekenasio. Gordon continued to impress, playing out of her skin, collecting yet another intercept off the Tactix centre pass thanks to her hunting style of play. The Pulse kept the Tactix to their lowest quarter time score in the season and were intent in keeping it that way as they skipped out to a 15-6 lead. Jury led the way in defence with another intercept, using her feet to cleanly get hands to ball and stop Mainland in their tracks. Both Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau struggled to contain Ekenasio and Dunn as the two were having a field day under the post unfazed by the physicality of the Tactix defenders and lean over the shot.
It was a bit of a stalemate midway through the quarter with neither side able to easily hit the scoreboard, as the ball travelled up and down the court to no real avail. Ekenasio continued to prove just how influential she is not only in the goal circle but in general play linking up exceptionally well with Gordon around circle edge. The Pulse pushed out to a nine goal lead despite a scrappy couple of minutes as the intensity lifted a notch. Back to back goals from the Tactix allowed them to cut the deficit to seven goals before Pulse centre Claire Kersten showcased her experience and vision to deliver ball into the shooters with precision and create a 10 goal lead.
After starring in the opening half, Gordon found herself on the bench as Tiana Metuarau entered the court in wing attack. A missed shot from the Tactix allowed the Pulse to pounce and score the first goal of the half with Dunn dominating to post. Charlotte Elley plied her trade through the midcourt to dice through the Pulse defence and re-offer at the transverse line while Poi worked exceptionally hard to win ball back and create timely tips. Wing defence, Karin Burger dominated Erikana Pedersen to nullify her influence around the circle, credit to her three-foot marking and quick footwork to constantly get hands to ball. Her defensive efforts worked hand in hand with Jury as the goal keeper endeavoured to make life hard for Bird in the goal circle to contest every single pass.
The change in attack seemed to hinder the Pulse’s second phase play as the physicality stepped it up a notch in the goal circle with Fakahokotau and Watson wearing both Dunn and Ekenasio like a glove to limit them to eight goals for the term. Up the other end, Selby-Rickit and Bird connected well finding each other on the hold as they rallied across the court. Elley picked up ball in defence as the Tactix cut the margin back to eight goals despite the lead being as much as 11 goals. They were not done with yet reducing the deficit to six goals to give them a fighting chance.
With the game on the line Gordon re-entered the match at wing attack as Ekenasio slotted the first of the term. Gordon did not skip a beat, immediately having an influence across the court, however the Tactix were mounting an admirable fightback to get within five goals as their strong defensive zone cut off the Pulse’s options in attack. But the Pulse flicked a switch with Gordon lighting up the court with her speed and Burger inserting herself into the action with a big intercept. With the clock ticking down Pulse ran rampant as their connections across court and silky ball movement enabled them to enhance the lead to 12 goals and gift them back-to-back premierships.
It was a battle of the towering goal shooters with Dunn leading the way under the post for Pulse with 28 goals from 30 attempts while up the other end Bird was the mainstay with 19 goals of her own at 83 per cent. The input from the goal attacks was where the game was won and lost with Ekenasio converting 15 goals and Selby-Rickit managing 12 goals.
It was a defensive masterclass from both sides as Jury proved to be a menace with two intercepts and two gains while Rore and Burger combined for three intercepts and four deflections. Watson led the way for the Tactix with three intercepts and two goal assists, an usual stat for a goal defence. But it was the work of Gordon that stood head and shoulders above the rest and despite only playing three quarters secured player of the match honours thanks to her 13 goal assists and three intercepts to cap off a sensational season for the youngster.
Central Pulse 12 | 11 | 8 | 12 (43)
Mainland Tactix 6 | 7 | 11 | 7 (31)
GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury
GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau