Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel vs Te Wānanga o Ruakawa Pulse - March 11, 2023
Despite some gallant individual efforts, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel succumbed 37-57 to the Te Wānanga o Ruakawa Pulse in Wellington tonight.
It was a disappointing outcome on a night where defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit celebrated her 200th elite netball game and you can bet her team-mates would have wanted to deliver a deserved win for their captain.
With her game smarts and knowledge, the defender was welcomed back into the starting seven after the influential Steel stalwart missed the opening round.
In a career that started with the Flyers in the 2005 national league, Selby-Rickit became just the fifth player to reach the double tonne.
The Pulse paid tribute to the defender, who played for the club from 2012-2015, but were all business when the whistles blew.
After a promising start to the encounter as the southerners traded shots, the home side edged ahead at the first break and continued its forward trajectory on the scoreboard.
Energetic defender Kate Burley was a standout for the Steel, her dogged determination keeping the Pulse feeders honest.
Unfortunately, her Pulse counterpart Kelly Jury was in commanding form, racking up five intercepts and five rebounds to make life a misery for the Steel attack.
Georgia Heffernan deserves praise for a commendable 90 percent accuracy under immense pressure.
With less than 48 hours until its next showdown - against the Robinhood Stars in Auckland on Monday night - head coach Reinga Bloxham will be seeking a fast turnaround in fortunes.
Ultimately it was a masterclass from Jury which handed the Steel its second consecutive loss.
The Pulse co-captain picked up a wealth of possession for the hosts and went about her work with purpose – an MVP performance as she grabbed five intercepts, seven deflections and five rebounds for her side and was an imposing obstacle for the Steel throughout the game.
Fourteen gains from the defensive pressure in the first half set the tone of the game – the hosts leading at each break and, unlike the opening round, kept the pressure on throughout the full 60 minutes of play for maximum Premiership points.
Jury was a menace on defence as was midcourter Maddy Gordon who put pressure over every ball while shooter Amelia Walmsley had another strong performance for the Pulse.
They started with the same line-up which beat the Magic in the opening round including Walmsley again earning the starting bib in the shooting circle, while the Steel welcomed Selby-Rickit back into the defensive circle and Jess Allan got the nod in the shooting circle.
The battle between Steel defender Renee Savai’inaea and Pulse attacker Whitney Souness promised plenty and delivered in the first quarter – the duo muscling up for ball and position.
After an MVP performance in her first start for the Pulse last week, Walmsley continued her promising start to the league with her strong hold in the shooting circle and accuracy a feature early on.
At the other end of the court, Jury was punishing with her defence over the ball picking up three deflections and a rebound as the Pulse edged out to 13-8 at the break.
The finishing touches proved elusive for the Steel who were solid with their transition from defence onto attack and bringing the ball to the circle edge.
But too many turnovers occurred with the feeds into the circle as Jury and Kristiana Manu’a shut down their options – the Steel’s shooting accuracy also hurting the visitors as the difference doubled to 10 goals.
A run of four goals late in the half gave the Steel a lift before the Pulse powered home to extend their lead to 27-16 at the main break.
Just one change was made for the third spell with Allan and Georgia Heffernan switching bibs in an effort to get more clean ball into the shooting circle.
The Steel also showed more urgency with their defensive efforts around the outside of the circle, doing their best to slow down ball into Walmsley.
It was a slow build-up of confidence for the visitors as they closed the gap to six goals mid-way through the stanza before the Pulse again rallied to regain their dominance and a 40-28 lead heading into the last term.
Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Amelia Walmsley 42/45 (93%)
Tiana Metuarau 13/15 (87%)
Joyce Mvula 2/3 (66%)
Shooting Stats - Steel:
Georgia Heffernan 20/22 (91%)
Jess Allan 13/22 (59%)
Meleitia Tatupu 4/7 (57%)
MVP: Kelly Jury (Pulse)