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It was a torrid but scrappy clash between the two New Zealand rivals with Pulse never able to completely shake the visitors.
A big second half from the Pulse where veteran shooter Donna Wilkins showed her value with a polished 16 goals from 16 attempts and captain Katrina Grant with a dominant defensive outing eventually provided the home team the breathing space to seal the points.
Mystics had their chances, showing glimpses of quality attacking play to take the lead on several occasions. But in mirroring much of their season, inconsistency proved the downfall of the visitors.
Mystics were always handily enough placed to steal an upset, the urgency and willingness of both teams desperate for the win contributing to a whistle-dominated spectacle.
Paula Griffin was rewarded for a strong outing last week, getting the nod for her second start of the season at goal attack for the Pulse ahead of Wilkins while Nadia Loveday earned the start at wing attack for Mystics.
The visitors again tinkered with their defence, Anna Harrison lining up at wing defence, Julie Corletto, goal defence, and rising young talent Temalisi Fakahokotau at goalkeeper.
It was Mystics who made the more settled start in an opening quarter highlighted by a succession of turnovers. There were plenty of physical exchanges as both teams battled to gain the initiative with neither able to establish any semblance of consistency.
The Mystics pushed out to an early four-goal lead before a strong reply from the home team helped the Pulse edge to a 12-11 lead at the first break, the combined 18 turnovers being the most glaring statistic.
Again, it was the Mystics who made the better start on the back of slick attacking play, shooter Cathrine Latu being a strong target on the baseline.
Momentum continued to swing both ways in the willing contest with several warnings being issued by the umpires – the penalty count soaring to 81 in the first half – before Pulse found their rhythm on attack. Shooter Irene van Dyk played a strong hand for the home team with her accuracy and availability, a six-goal scoring streak giving Pulse a 22-18 lead.
That proved short-lived as another Mystics surge gave the impetus back to the visitors who took an unlikely 25-24 lead into the main break.
The expected changes of Wilkins and home town girl Liana Leota were introduced for the Pulse in the second half while Bailey Mes took over at wing attack and Jess Tuki goalkeeper for the Mystics.
The match started in similar fashion to the first two quarters, Mystics leaping out to an early lead before Pulse made a forceful reply to leave their imprint on proceedings.
Lifting their intensity, the home team’s defensive unit of Joline Henry, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Grant played a strong role in limiting the effectiveness of Latu and Tutaia. Grant, in particular, was a dominant presence in the Mystics circle with her aerial and athletic skills.
At the other end, Wilkins made an immediate impact under the hoop with her accuracy and ability to direct play, the Pulse seemingly taking a semblance of control when leading 38-33 at the last break.
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt