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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defeated 50-44 against the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse - May 9, 2022

The tables were turned on the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Dunedin tonight.

In a reverse of fortunes, the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse staged a heroic last quarter fightback to clinch an important 50-44 victory.

As the hunt for an ANZ Premiership finals berth heats up, the result could prove instrumental in the Steel’s title hopes.

Buoyed by delivering the strong start they’ve been seeking all season, the southerners dominated the opening half to lead 27-23 at halftime.

Sublime defence was a hallmark of the encounter with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Kate Burley forcing an uncharacteristically flustered performance from the heralded Pulse attack as shooters Aliyah Dunn and Tiana Metuarau simply didn’t get the possession they craved.

In contrast, Steel goal shoot George Fisher was gifted a plethora of ball courtesy of the superior vison of wing attack Shannon Saunders.

The pace and intensity never waned in the entire match, resulting in a thrilling encounter for Dunedin’s netball faithful.

But when it mattered most, it was the Pulse who delivered the goods, racking up 8 unanswered goals – and keeping the Steel scoreless for an entire five minutes - to snatch the lead in the dying stages and outclass the home side 15-5. Notably, it was the second lowest number of goals score in a quarter in ANZ Premiership history – not a statistic to be proud of.

To be denied a bonus point simply rubbed salt in the wounds for the Steel and captain Shannon Saunders didn’t sugar coat her assessment.

“That last quarter really sucked,” she told Sky Sport.

“We just got caught up in the fight. We knew they were a physical team and I think we just got way too involved in it and let the umpires come into the game a wee bit in that last quarter.

“We just went away from what was working for us. We were good at the start getting off the body, playing with the ball speed.

Steel was still in finals contention and, after a disrupted stint recently due to Covid, had games in hand to capitalise on points.

“We need that full 60 minute performance and if we’ve got a lead, we’ve got to be able to push on. We’ve got quite a few games but we do have four in one week so that will be a real test of our recovery processes,” Saunders said.

While the Steel led at every quarter break, the Pulse finally found their rhythm and turned up the intensity in the last stanza.

The comeback win also signalled a turnaround in fortunes for Pulse midcourter Maddy Gordon, who made the starting seven for the first time this season, returning from a frustrating knee injury. Unrelenting at both centre and wing defence, Gordon played all 60 minutes and was rewarded with MVP honours.

Not so good for the Pulse was an injury to wing defence Paris Lokotui – who collapsed in a heap holding her left knee in the first four minutes of the game. She was helped from the court and returned to the bench on crutches unable to continue in the match.

It was a frenetic start as both sides put the attacks under pressure and forced a volley of mistakes.

The Steel defence were in outstanding form from the get-go, Burley (coming back from Covid) quick to get her eye in and make some critical gains, and Selby-Rickit keeping Pusle goal shoot Dunn remarkably quiet.

The home side quickly established a four goal lead, and coach Reinga Bloxham made her scheduled changes to keep the side fresh.

Both Saviour Tui and Georgia Heffernan were more than useful in support of goal shoot Fisher in the shooting circle, in spite of the intense attention Fisher came under from Pulse goal keep Kelly Jury, and the Steel were up 18-13 at the first break.

Courtney Elliott had come on at wing defence as the replacement for Lokotui, but at the start of the second quarter, Gordon moved to wing defence and Erikana Pedersen slotted into the middle, and the difference paid off immediately.

The Pulse put the Steel under all kinds of pressure and scored four in a row to get back to within one. But they couldn’t maintain that intensity, and with Shannon Saunders rallying her troops from wing attack, the Steel pushed out to a 27-23 lead at halftime.

While Dunn was accurate under the hoop, she was quieter than normal, and Tiana Metuarau took some of the heat off her shooting from further out. At the other end, Fisher was narrowly winning the battle against Jury.

With the third quarter drawn, the Steel were still four ahead, 39-35, at the start of the last 15 minutes.

But the Pulse weren’t prepared to live with that, and scored the first seven goals after the break through some patience working the ball through court, making space, and pressuring the Steel into basic errors.

With Dunn stepping up her intensity – eventually shooting 36 from 37 - and Whitney Souness employing some clever feeding, the Pulse finally took the lead in the match by four with seven minutes left.

A frustrated Fisher then went to the bench, with Tui taking her place at goal shoot and immediately sinking a goal shot while she was hanging in the air almost behind the hoop.

But by then, the damage had been done, and the Pulse’s resurgence could not be shut down.

Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 44
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse: 50

Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 29/34 (85%)
Saviour Tui 14/16 (88%)
Georgia Heffernan 1/4 (25%)

Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Aliyah Dunn 36/37 (97%)
Tiana Metuarau 14/19 (74%)

MVP: Maddy Gordon (Pulse)


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