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Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse Maintain Clean Sheet Against Ascot Park Hotel Steel In Wellington

Absorbing the early pressure, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse maintained their clean sheet in the opening stages of the ANZ Premiership with their third straight win.

Only a late injury to midcourter Maddy Gordon marred their performance at TSB Arena in Wellington as they netted a 54-46 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.

Gordon was assisted from the court in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury which upset some of their flow up front, but the hard work done late in the third quarter – at both ends of the court – set the Pulse up for victory.

It was again an improved performance from the Steel however and, despite still searching for their first win of the season, they will take the positives from another step up in play – the shooting combination of Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan causing plenty of early problems for the fancied Pulse duo of Kelly Jackson and Parris Mason.

They also got 45 minutes of court time from midcourter Shannon Saunders and a full game from Kate Heffernan, two of their most experienced players who are returning from injury.

It was the Pulse set the defensive tone from the outset, pushing the Steel wide and forcing their shooters to put the ball up at range.

But Steel’s patience, the backbone of the club’s netball history, came to the fore as they waited for space to open up, levelling the scores early on.

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Navigating the long reach of Jackson was going to be one of the Steel’s biggest asks of the day, the Pulse defender an imposing figure in the circle.

The shooter-to-shooter play between Georgia Heffernan and Namana did enough to work the ball closer to the post as the Steel went on a four-goal run to lead by three goals.

Opening up space on attack, the experience of Saunders and Kate Heffernan helped thread the ball in passed the hands of Jackson and Mason.

In contrast, the Pulse looked for the quick feed into Amelia Walmsley with the height advantage over Taneisha Fifita.

But errors crept into their attack as the Steel maintained their defensive pressure and the 14-11 scoreline in their favour at the break marked the first quarter the southerners have won this season.

Play resumed with a shuffle in the Pulse shooting circle with Walmsley moving out to goal attack and Khiarna Williams picking up the shooter bib.

It made an immediate impact for the hosts, but the Pulse continued to struggle to shut down the play of Namana and Georgia Heffernan.

A footwork call on Namana gave the Pulse the opportunity to close the gap to just one goal mid-way through the spell.

Coach Anna Andrews-Tasola went to her bench with five minutes left in the half injecting goal defence Kelea Iongi into the game.

The patience and deception of Saunders’ feed into the attacking circle continued to confuse the Pulse’s defensive efforts however as the southerners clung to a 27-25 lead at halftime.

Having had the better of their opponents in the first half, the big question was whether the Steel, looking to break a 20-game losing streak, could run out the game, knowing two of their most experienced players were on managed minutes.

Steel defender Abby Lawson came off the bench to start the third quarter as their front line remained the same.

Levelling the scores, the Pulse lifted in intensity with their through court defence while Mason, who returned to play, went low for turnovers around the Steel shooters.

It sparked a change in momentum as the hosts turned the tables to go up by three with eight minutes to play.

With both teams desperate to get on top, the physicality also lifted and a warning to Fifita forced a change to the Steel defensive line as the Pulse went on a five-goal run to extend their lead to 42-35 heading into the last turn.

Official Result and Stats:

Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse: 54

Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 46

© Scoop Media

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