Central Pulse keep their hopes alive
The Central Pulse live to fight another day.
Faced with the prospect of making a premature exit from the trans-Tasman Netball League playoff race tonigh, the Pulse responded with the kind of netball people have waited a long time to see them play.
It wasn't perfect or pretty, but it was enough to see them beat the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic 54-44 and keep their semifinal hopes alive.
"Get in the game, girls'' had been the thought on your mind, as the Pulse played an apologetic first quarter. With their season at stake you would have assumed there would be some obvious desperation in the home team's play, but they seemed reluctant to impose themselves.
They gradually started to make a contest of it, but only after finding themselves five goals down. There still seemed a hesitancy about what the Pulse were doing, but trailing 15-13 at the first break meant they were at least in touch.
Donna Wilkins was at the core of the eventual comeback. With a banged up face, courtesy of contact between she and Magic goal keep Leana de Bruin, the Pulse goal shoot was a picture of grim determination.
Shooting partner Irene van Dyk was being starved of opportunities, meaning Wilkins had to launch attempts from everywhere. But they were almost all going in and, with goal keep Katrina Grant picking up some welcome intercepts and rebounds at the other end, the Pulse's second quarter was probably their best of the season.
They'd been utterly insipid during the second 15 minutes of the previous week's loss to the Melbourne Vixens but, at long last, here was a determined and accurate Pulse team.
They won the second quarter 14-19, to take a deserved 27-24 halftime lead, and immediately increased that advantage after the break. Within nine minutes of the resumption the Pulse were 36-28 ahead and beginning to look like the team their lofty individual reputations would suggest they should be for every quarter of every match.
They really can be a sleepy bunch of women at times but, for the middle part of this match at least, the Pulse were alert and assertive.
The issue they've had all season has been turnovers and conceding goals in big bunches so while a lead that hovered at seven or eight for much of the third quarter was handy, history suggested it was a long way from being match-winning.
The Magic's position in the top-two of this competition has flattered them all season. All the same, they're not a mug team and despite being 42-34 down with 15 minutes to play, you couldn't write the visitors off. The team with the nerve and nous would be the one left celebrating afterwards.
Pulse coach Robyn Broughton's response was to introduce her safest feeding option. Liana Leota isn't fit enough to play big minutes at this point, but she's canny and calm and the Pulse needed those attributes as the game got a bit ragged.
You want to see teams play like they care and leave everything out there. That meant some of the standards slipped, yet that only added to the game as a spectacle.
The Pulse ended up victorious but, overall, it was a fine advertisement for netball.