A dominant second half pushed Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse to an emphatic 66-50 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in a top-of-the-table clash in Dunedin.
In a rare loss on their home turf, the defending champions continued to apply the pressure during a tight and abrasive first half, but the Pulse maintained their composure, absorbing everything thrown at them before racing away to post a decisive result.
Scoring their second win over the same opponents in less than three weeks, the Pulse had plenty of satisfaction in doing it away from home while keeping their unbeaten record intact.
A staunch defensive effort and the shooting efforts of Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn, the latter completing a perfect game with 37 goals from 37 attempts, eventually quelled the southern spirit.
There were no surprises in either line-up, each team fronting with their strongest seven as the game quickly settled into a pattern that would remain throughout the first half.
Mini-runs highlighted the opening half, the Pulse getting away to a strong start after scoring the first three goals but each time they were reeled in by the dogged southerners.
Relentless defence paid off for the Pulse early on with the rangy figure of wing defence Karin Burger in the thick of action while the slick rapport between shooters Ekenasio and Dunn helped the visitors keep their noses in front.
Steel shooter Lenize Potgieter found her feet with good positioning and accuracy under the hoop as the Pulse closed out an entertaining and high scoring first quarter with a 17-15 lead.
The home side turned the tables on the resumption, tightening the grip on the midcourt to effectively disrupt the Pulse’s attacking momentum. Within moments they had slipped into the lead and a tense goal-for-goal stand-off ensued.
There was improved flow from the Steel with more ball getting into Potgieter’s hands while defenders Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood turned up the heat on the Pulse shooters.
Having to work harder for any reward, the Pulse absorbed the pressure before hitting back late in the piece to get back in front and hit the main break with a 32-29 lead.
Again, it was the Steel who made a seamless start to the third quarter, knocking off the deficit in quick succession before a five-goal run pushed them into a four-goal lead. Strong driving play from wing attack Gina Crampton provided plenty of ball for the Steel shooters but it was to be short-lived.
Scoring just two goal in the first five minutes, the tide turned in the Pulse’s favour in stunning fashion. Heavily penalised in the first half, captain Katrina Rore was to have an influential presence in third and fourth quarters alongside her defensive partner Sulu Fitzpatrick.
The pair did a fine job in drying up the options for the southerners on attack, the Steel dropping away as the Pulse pounced.
Regaining their control and poise, it was the visitors who hit the last break with all the momentum after forging a handy 49-40 lead.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 50
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse: 66
Shooting Stats – Steel:
Lenize Potgieter 33/38 (87%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 17/22 (77%)
Shooting Stats – Pulse:
Aliyah Dunn 37/37 (100%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 29/34 (85%)
MVP: Aliyah Dunn (Pulse)