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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse - April 17, 2023

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel suffered a hefty 62-38 loss to the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in Wellington tonight.

It was an ominous start for the Steel when their opening pass of the match was immediately intercepted but, to their credit, they regained their composure to tussle with intent late in the spell and close the deficit to a respectable margin.

However, when the Pulse ramped up the tempo in the physical encounter, the southerners were too often left stumbling and failed to capitalise on their own possession, limiting opportunities to haul themselves back in the hunt.

After Saturday’s narrow two-goal loss to the Stars in Auckland, the players will undoubtedly be hurting.

Steel captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit told Sky Sport it was a difficult match.

“I thought the Pulse, they were really classy tonight. They kind of squeezed us in and we played right into their hands and when you do that and have to throw it over someone like Kelly Jury, it’s really tough and I don’t think we reacted well to that,” she said.

“There were some really nice moments. It’s just that when we’re down, we’re really down and we make mistake after mistake after mistake. We need to look at that and try to make the mistakes few and far between or eliminate them.”

She admitted her team were overawed by the physicality.

“When they are on your back and that’s the style they play, its really tough to stand up to that every minute of the game but that’s what we train for … we train to be strong, we train to take on those hits. It’s learning how to take it and keep going which is more of a mentality so we have to fix that up.

There was plenty to work on ahead of Sunday’s game against the Trident Homes Tactix in Dunedin.

“The Tactix have an amazing defence and an amazing attack end and they will make you pay … so we’re just going to have to do it the Steel way which is patient and pass it around 100 times. Everyone has seen it, it’s boring to watch but if it gets us the win we need to learn how to do that and be okay with winning ugly.”

Selby-Rickit said leadership within the Steel ranks was about balance.

“We do have to step up as leaders but also not overboard. We don’t have to stand there screaming on the line and putting more pressure on them, it’s more of a supportive role. Most of our leaders are in the defensive end so I feel for our attackers but this is a great learning opportunity, it’s character building for them and that will help them in the seasons ahead,” she said.

Pulse co-captain Kelly Jury said the comprehensive victory was vital in the hunt for a finals berth.

“We knew we couldn’t take Steel lightly because they haven’t won a game this season so we knew they had the ability to fight and they showed some real mongrel out there. It’s really good that we showed some composure and discipline with the ball,” she said.

“We know from now on in we have to get those three points on the board every game. Losses just aren’t going to cut it because those top three spots are so tight.”

New centurion Tiana Metuarau led her Pulse side in their continued march up the leader-board. At 22, she became the youngest player to notch up 100 games in the national league, and gave a polished performance in a game that saw the Pulse move up to second equal with the Tactix at the end of round seven.

And with her young shooting partner Amelia Walmsley in stellar form – scoring 52 of her 58 attempts at 90 percent - the Pulse attack was relentless.

The Steel were especially determined on defence, and had moments of exciting play, but were still outgunned in every quarter and frustratingly remain winless this season.

Continuing their dominance from Saturday’s upset of league leaders the Mystics, the Pulse made their intentions clear from the get-go, quickly interrupting the Steel’s flow through court and rushing out to a four-goal lead.

The Steel’s attackers were hesitant to feed their shooters, with the Pulse defenders Jury and Kristiana Manu’a ruling the circle. Yet when they got the ball through to goal shoot Saviour Tui, she was faultless with her attempts.

Steel wing defence Sam Winders and goal keep Kate Burley were dogged – Burley often getting a hand to tip the ball away from the Pulse shooters. But with the Pulse midcourt growing in confidence with every game, Maddy Gordon and Whitney Souness were quick and clinical working the ball into the circle.

Down 14-9 at the end of the first quarter, the Steel returned to the court with a fresh approach. Although Tui hadn’t missed a shot in that opening spell, she was replaced by Jess Allen, who’s turn-and-shoot style got the Steel within three.

But with Jury in excellent form – claiming four intercepts - the Pulse quickly took control again. The Steel could only score off half of their centre passes, and found themselves trailing 27-17 at halftime, and 45-28 after three quarters.

For a second time in two games, Gordon was named player of the match – with three intercepts and four gains. But she had to be helped off the court with a calf cramp, to the crowd’s applause for her unstinting efforts.

Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Amelia Walmsley 52/58 (90%)
Tiana Metuarau 10/13 (77%)

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Georgia Heffernan 18/23 (78%)
Jess Allan 9/10 (90%)
Saviour Tui 11/13 (85%)

MVP: Maddy Gordon


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