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  3. Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defeated 59-49 against the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel was defeated 59-49 by the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse at ILT Stadium Southland tonight. - 21st May 2022

While it was a blow to Steel's playoffs aspirations, the southeners remain in contention if they can emerge unbeaten from their remaining three games of the regular season … and a little luck goes their way.

In a season hampered by Covid disruptions, it was a cruel blow to the Steel to lose shooter Saviour Tui and replacement midcourter Kate Hartley to the flu this week which, together with injury to Renee Savai’naea, forced yet another line-up reshuffle to contend with.

Spurred on by the loyal Steel faithful filling the stands, the Steel initially kept well in touch on the scoreboard but never managed to gain the upper hand.

The physical presence of the Pulse piled the pressure on the home side’s attack which struggled to find flow at crucial times.

Pulse goal keep Kelly Jury was an influential figure and deserved MVP, admirably leading the Pulse's defensive prowess with impeccable timing.

The Steel had its opportunities but failed to reap the rewards of turnover ball, too often coughing it up again as the Pulse lurked eagerly.

The home side propelled itself back into contention, venturing back within four early in the second half, but was unable to sustain the lift in momentum.

The statistics were not favourable for the Steel's in any capacity - the most notable being turnovers converted with just 9 from 19 successful. In the shooting stakes, Steel collectively managed 79 percent compared to Pulse's impressive haul of 95 percent from the unshakable Aliyah Dunn and Tiana Metuarau. 

Captain Shannon Saunders lamented the personal errors.

“We made it really hard on ourselves on attack. We looked really stressed with the ball,” she told Sky Sport.

“Our timing was out, and we knew it would be because they play very man-on-man, but we were just pushing the passes when we didn't need to.”

Steel has less than 24 hours to turn its fortunes around before facing the Splice Construction Magic tomorrow afternoon.

“We can get back out there and rectify what went wrong. We need to convert our turnover because that's just basic netball.”

It was a clinical performance from the Pulse to firm up their chances of earning a spot in the finals series.

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, Dunn (44/45) and Metuarau (14/16) set the platform for a strong performance which was endorsed in perfect fashion by the supporting Pulse cast.

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 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.

Official Result and Stats: 

Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 49
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse: 59

Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 39/41 (95%)
Georgia Heffernan 10/20 (50%)
Kiana Pelasio 0/1 (0%)

Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Aliyah Dunn 44/45 (98%)
Tiana Metuarau 14/16 (88%)
Amelia Walmsley 1/1 (100%)

MVP: Kelly Jury (Pulse)


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