COMING off their first loss in the ANZ Premiership last round, Central Pulse were determined to get back in the winning books against the Southern Steel, running out 15-goal victors (34-49). It was a clinical performance by the Pulse who led at every single break and steadily increase their margin by shutting down the Steel’s options in attack and forcing them wide. The Steel struggled to generate any type of easy ball movement through their attacking and centre third forcing them to work in overdrive.
Pulse got off to a flyer nailing the first goal of the quarter and capitalising on the missed shot from the Steel to assert their dominance straight away and create an early buffer. It was clear the Pulse were out for redemption with their second phase play incredibly strong thanks to the speed and timing of wing attack Maddy Gordon. The nippy mid quarter seemed to have the ball on a string in the opening minutes of the quarter using her quick release and vision into the circle to create a wealth of opportunities for the Pulse under the post. Her partnership with fellow centre Claire Kersten was also strong with the two creating consistent movement through the attacking third to keep the Steel defenders guessing.
It was a strong and physical start to the contest by Steel goal keeper Taneisha Fifita with the youngster leaving no stone unturned to make the Pulse shooters work for every single pass. While she hunted each and every ball that came her way Fifita drew a lot of attention from the umpires ultimately giving Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio easy passage to goal something they well and truly capitalised on. The physicality seemed to be contagious with Kersten spending a fair bit of time on the floorboards thanks to some heavy hits from the Steel defensive unit but that did not seem to disrupt the Pulse who opened up a handy buffer heading into the break.
Down by nine goals the Southern Steel looked to the bench with Kendall Corkery entering the game to replace Kate Heffernan who struggled to quell the influence of Gordon around the circle edge. The influence of Ellen Halpenny was evident throughout the second term with the goal shooter picking up where she left off in the first to open their account and get the team rolling. The Steel were rewarded with an early held ball call against the Pulse thanks to their increased pressure but the Pulse proved anything you can do I can do better with Karin Burger forcing a turnover of her own thanks to her long arms and reach. The physicality continued throughout the term with bodies flying across the court while the scrappiness started to come into play for the Pulse throwing ball away and not capitalising on their chances.
The Pulse quickly regained their composure with their silky ball movement down the court and use of width on the pass to catch the catch the Steel off guard and bypass the mess. The hands over pressure from the Pulse was immense blocking the vision of the Steel with Gina Crampton falling to have her usual impact around circle edge thanks to Burger. Up the other end Gordon continued to wow with her dynamic footwork and speed off the mark to pounce on any loose ball that came her way. Steel started to settle and win ball back stringing together three goals in a row to cut the deficit from 10 goals to seven but Burger refused to give in proving to be a real menace around the circle edge picking up a clever intercept. The home team managed to stop the bleeding and reclaim some momentum to steady across the court but the defensive pressure from Kelly Jury and Katrina Rore was simply undeniable gobbling up every rebound and applying hands over pressure on the shot to force missed chances. Pulse put their foot down in the final two minutes of the quarter to push the lead out and gain full control.
Unable to replicate their performance from the night before the Steel brought on Abby Erwood in goal defence forcing Te Huinga Selby-Rickit back into goal keeper. Although Halpenny got to work straight away with an early goal it was the shooter to shooter interplay from the Pulse that caused the Steel headaches with the two finding a wealth of space to dish off pin point passes. Steel gave away a wealth of penalties in the defensive third and subsequently gifted the Pulse easy avenue to goal on multiple occasions.
Halpenny continued to be the key target under the post showcasing her experience and leadership while Kalifa McCollin floated in and out of the match thanks to the close marking from Rore. Looking for a spark Selby-Rickit delivered with a clever intercept to send the ball streaming back down court and was rewarded for her efforts as the Steel rallied. But the constant movement from the Pulse attack did not allow the Steel to set-up. after a stunning half of netball Gordon went to the bench as Tiana Metuarau entered the game in wing attack and did not skip a beat as her side put the foot down. Dunn seemed to have the ball on a string and steadily growing with confidence throughout the quarter and backing herself from range as the Pulse extended the lead to a whopping 15 goals.
With 12 minutes to play, the Pulse continued their merry way making full use of their strong connections across the court to move the ball with ease. The trust in the Pulse line-up was evident with Elle Temu stepping up to the plate and delivering with her pressure over the shot and three foot marking while Gordon re-entered the game in at centre. However that was short lived with Gordon forced from the court with an ankle injury allowing Renee Savai’inaea to enter the game but that did not seem to stop the steam train that was the Pulse.
Halpenny was solid for the Steel with the goal shooter taking everything in her stride and piling on the pressure with 13 goals from 18 attempts. McCollin also continued to impress with her dynamic movement and accuracy to post with 19 goals at 86 per cent. For the Pulse, Dunn returned to her usual prolific and accurate ways nailing 30 goals from 32 attempts, while Ekenasio also recovered from a poor showing last round with 19 goals at 95 per cent and 11 goal assists credit to her impressive vision. The defensive prowess of Jury and Rore was on show throughout the game collecting a combined six gains.
Southern Steel 7 | 9 | 7 | 11 (34)
Central Pulse 16 | 10 | 12 | 11 (49)
GS: Ellen Halpenny
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita
GS: Aliyah Dunn
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
WA: Maddy Gordon
C: Claire Kersten
WD: Karin Burger
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Kelly Jury