Haier Pulse Cruise to Second Victory in Scotland
Invitational Haier Central Pulse v Manchester Thunder
World Premier Club Challenge, Glasgow
Haier Pulse Cruise to Second Victory in Scotland
The Invitational Haier Central Pulse continued their dominant form in the World Premier Club Challenge (WPCC) with a 64-41 victory of Manchester Thunder at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena on Friday morning (NZ time).
The scoreline didn’t tell the full story, however, with the 2012 Fiat Superleague champions providing a far sterner test than the Pulse’s previous opponents the Surrey Storm.
The crowd roared with laughter as the team from Manchester ran on to the court with the theme from Coronation Street blasting out of the PA system, but they quickly got down to business, matching the Haier Pulse goal for goal in the opening exchanges.
All eyes were on new Australian Diamond Caitlin Thwaites, who shot 92% against the Storm, and Amber Bellringer who returned 81% in a powerful display, but it was Manchester who stole their thunder with a confident start, taking a 3-2 lead.
The Haier Pulse pulled back thanks to a trademark intercept from Te Huinga Selby Rickit and at 5-5 it was hard to separate the teams, quite literally at times with both sets of players wearing yellow uniforms, which took a while to get used to.
The energy and accuracy of new Haier Pulse signing Liana Leota began to wear down her opponents, with the former Silver Fern finding her shooters with a series of long, fast passes into the circle. Displaying her full range of skills on the court, Leota also appeared to have set a new benchmark in multi-tasking, as the match commentators received a ‘tweet’ from her account midway through the quarter. There was relief all round when it became apparent that the mystery tweeter was her husband Johnny, the Sale Sharks rugby player.
Meanwhile, the Thunder were showing that they weren’t to be underestimated, with Krista Enziano and Kathryn Turner both calmly slotting goals from distance to keep their side in touch at 11-8 down after 10 minutes.
The pace was fast and furious, with the experienced Victoria Smith and newcomer Claire Kersten launching some fast counter-attacks from deep as the Haier Pulse forced the Thunder into a number of errors to take a 20-11 lead into the break.
All four shooters kept up their good form in the second quarter, with captain Sara Bayman feeding Enziano with some quality long passes, while Leota continued her high octane display at wing attack.
The Thunder were well organised defensively, with their zonal marking putting good pressure on the midcourt as the pace of the game gradually slowed from its lung-busting beginning. Despite this, Thwaites and Bellringer continued to link well and the Haier Pulse led by a comfortable 38-24 margin at the halfway point.
Thunder coach Tracey Neville, the former England international and sister of former Manchester United stars Gary and Phil, used her bench extremely effectively, giving opportunities to her full squad. In an inspired move, she switched England defender Emma Dovey from goal attack to goal keeper to give Thwaites her full attention, which helped to reign in the prolific Australian shooter.
An ankle injury impaired Thwaites further, but this was nothing that a few metres of strapping tape couldn’t fix. The Haier Pulse players have always taken their sponsorship obligations extremely seriously, but during the break in play the cameras zoomed in on a New World shopping bag on the sideline, which would have raised a smile with their supporters watching back home. In a further injury scare, centre Daya Wiffin, who was forming a good understanding with Leota, was forced from the court with what appeared to be calf injury, to be replaced by youngster Nicola Mackle.
With all this disruption, the third quarter proved to be the best for the Manchester team, who matched the Haier Pulse 9-9 to go into the three quarter break with the score at 47-33.
The final quarter saw player of the match Enziano continue her outstanding shooting display, use her long reach to great effect in the circle, with a willingness to shoot from just about anywhere. At the other end, the Haier Pulse were showing good patience, often happy to pass the ball back to Smith while they regrouped, before launching a new attack.
Haier Pulse coach Robyn
Broughton replaced rookie Kersten with Stacey McFeeters for
the final minutes, as the many changes to the Thunder
finally had a detrimental effect. They showed a lack of
cohesion in the dying minutes which allowed the Haier Pulse
to blow out the score to 64-41.
The Haier Pulse take a full five points form the fixture, while the Thunder pick up a bonus point for scoring more than 50% of the Pulse’s total of goals.
Tomorrow the Haier Pulse take on the host team, the Glasgow Wildcats, at 1.50am (NZ time). The game is being streamed live at www.quipu.tv/html/live.html
Quarter scores (Pulse first): 11-20, 38-24,
Pulse Starting Line-Up
Te Huinga Selby Rickit
C - Nicola Mackle replaced Daya Wiffen
WD – Stacey McFeeters replaced Claire Kersten