Coming from behind, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse showed their potent credentials when delivering a withering last quarter to dismantle the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 47-40 at the Auckland Netball Centre on Saturday.
The Pulse showed their depth of talent with Maddy Gordon finishing the game at centre after starting at wing attack, and talented teen Tiana Metuarau, once again, delivering her impact from the bench when putting in a decisive shift at wing attack after coming on late in the third quarter.
The Pulse showed all their class to adjust throughout in the face of a strong Steel challenge and a return to their renowned form. Captain Katrina Rore and her defensive partner Kelly Jury slowly worked their way into a position of dominance over the Steel shooters to turn the tables in the run home.
In imposing form for three-quarters, the Steel shooters were restricted to just five goals in the closing quarter while being left scoreless for the first six minutes. At the other end, Pulse shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn produced a rare double with perfect returns, Ekenasio with 25/25 and Dunn 22/22.
Both sides started with familiar line-ups, the Pulse looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and the Steel keen to be the disrupters while building on their success of last weekend.
It was an enterprising start by both teams but it was the poise and balance of stylish goal attack Ekenasio who helped the Pulse get the better of the opening exchanges. Ekenasio was in the thick of the action in setting up the circle while also providing the bulk of the scoring opportunities.
At the other end, the Steel took time to find the accuracy of pass into shooters Jennifer O’Connell and Kalifa McCollin but once in the groove, they fought their way back from a six-goal deficit to trail the Pulse 14-11 at the first break.
Turnovers highlighted the resumption of play before both teams settled into their work, the Pulse giving up a five-goal lead as the Steel staged a stirring comeback.
Steel wing attack Gina Crampton came to life in stunning fashion with her availability to the ball and pin-perfect accuracy into O’Connell. The tall shooter remained a key figure with her perfect positioning, reliability to take all ball thrown her way and unwavering accuracy.
Thrown off their stride, the Pulse lost their connections despite shooters Ekenasio and Dunn returning a perfect shooting record but being restricted to just nine shots.
Six goals on the trot pushed the Steel into the lead for the first time as they held on for a narrow 24-23 advantage at the main break.
A goal-for-goal arm wrestle featured in the early stages of the third stanza before the Steel, once again, showed a strong hand. Playmaking Trinidad & Tobago import McCollin came into her own as the Steel made the most of their increased turnover opportunities.
Growing in confidence, another little push from the southerners had the Pulse under the pump. Defenders Te Huniga Reo Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita helped limit the Pulse on attack, resulting in Metuarau entering the fray at wing attack late in the piece.
But it was the Pulse who had it all ahead of them when the Steel led 35-33 at the last break.