Steel suffer second loss

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 17:54 08/03/2014

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Southern Steel have dropped to their second straight loss to start the 2014 trans-Tasman league.

The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team have lost 67-56 to the Central Pulse in Wellington this afternoon, despite a second half comeback which got them to within four goals of a major upset.

After being limited to just the final two quarters against the Firebirds last week due to a previously un-reported heart condition, Steel goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid got through four quarters in the capital.

A top display by Southlander Donna Wilkins for the Pulse ultimately proved the difference between the two teams.

A Wendy Frew held ball in the opening minutes had the Steel on the back foot early, but they did well to scrap their way back into the first quarter twice before conceding a four goal deficit at the end of the quarter.

That lead threatened to slip out to double figures in the second quarter before the Steel again managed to pull it back slightly to trail 34-26.

The Steel defence of Rachel Rasmussen and Phoenix Karaka was having some success pinching off the flow of ball into the Pulse shooting circle, but once it was in the hands of Wilkins and Irene van Dyk there was nothing the Steel could do about it.

Steel coach Janine Southby opted to rest Karaka after halftime, moving Rasmussen back to goal keep and bringing Storm Purvis into the defensive circle, while Gina Crampton replaced Shannon Francois at wing attack in her first appearance since 2012.

While benching Karaka seemed an odd decision, Crampton certainly added some penetration and the Pulse were only able to take the quarter 16-15 to be up 50-41 heading into the final quarter.

Suddenly the Pulse's inevitable march to victory seemed to stumble and then almost stall.

Erena Mikaere, the franchise's only offseason import, made her Steel debut off the bench in the final quarter replacing Rasmussen as the Steel got to within five goals of the Pulse.

Steel could have got even closer if it weren't for a Fowler-Reid stepping call at a crucial moment with seven minutes to play.

That turnover seemed to wake the Pulse up from whatever daydream they had slipped into and the home team eventually cruised to the win.

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- The Southland Times

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