In rebuilding mode, the reigning premiers chalked up a morale-boosting second win in an up-and-down 2011 campaign to date. After building a healthy lead the Thunderbirds were forced to repel a spirited third quarter fightback from Pulse, who were on their first trip across the Tasman this year.
As they have done so often in the past, Pulse got themselves back into striking distance but a lack of polish and disciplined play let them down. Both teams were guilty of a high turnover rate and the visitors did not make best use of the opportunities presented.
The opening quarter was punctuated by turnovers with neither team able to find any accuracy in their execution or finishing as highlighted by the low score. The home team were solid defensively, stalling the Pulses second phase progress while a nervous Caitlin Thwaites took time to settle, the Australian import having to wait 9-1/2 minutes before potting her first goal for the visitors.
A five-goal spurt late in the quarter coincided with athletic shooter Carla Borrego finding her range, helping give the Thunderbirds some momentum as they hit the first break with a 12-6 lead.
The quality of play did not rise significantly in an error-strewn second stanza with the visitors, in particular, unable to string together any consistency. Mistakes continued to plague the Pulse, many of them self-inflicted as they failed to cope with the one-on-one pressure exerted by the Thunderbirds through the midcourt.
Pulse could not get enough ball to their shooters, attacking movements often breaking down before the circle while Sharni Layton made life difficult for Thwaites when the ball did make it into the goal area.
Thunderbirds were equally as guilty at turning the ball over but found their way through court more readily than their opponents. Tested at times by Pulse defenders Katrina Grant and Victoria Smith, Borrego and Erin Bell got enough possession to deliver solid percentages and help post a 25-26 halftime lead for the home team.
The injection of Daya Pritchard at centre for Pulse provided a real shift in momentum for the visitors. With more height and purpose evident in the midcourt, Pulse found their rhythm with some crisp delivery through court. Thwaites and Amber Bellringer found their range under the hoop, a run of seven straight goals breathing life back into the Pulse as they reduced the deficit to three.
At the other end of the court, Bell and Borrego went off the boil, missing a rash of goals while the home teams cause was not helped when captain Natalie von Bertouch was forced from the court with illness.
But Pulse could not maintain their consistency, rushes of blood and errors playing into the Thunderbirds hands as they kept their noses in front to lead 37-31 at the last break.
Turnovers found their way back into the Pulses game as the home team held them at bay during the final stanza. The young Thunderbirds team snuffed out any chances of a first win for the Pulse this year, stepping up with a determined rally down the home straight.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse