Central Pulse defeat Northern Mystics 49-45
Australia, here they come.
The Central Pulse have done all they can against their New Zealand opponents and now need to travel away to the Queensland Firebirds and West Coast Fever to have any chance of qualifying for the trans-Tasman Netball League playoffs.
The Pulse beat the Northern Mystics 49-45 at Palmerston North's Arena Manawatu tonight, improving their record for this season to 7-4.
The Pulse spent much of the opening 30 minutes providing Exhibit A of what not to do when you meet a team with nothing to play for.
The Mystics have some players with the Commonwealth Games to come, but their trans-Tasman Netball League year is over. Their team's going nowhere and, no matter how professional you are, you're never as mentally sharp in that situation.
So the scenario for the Pulse were exceedingly simple: they needed to put a lead on the Mystics early and then wait for them to exit the contest.
Instead the home side threw good ball away after bad. They began both quarters, courtesy of goal attack Paula Griffin, by turning their opening possession over, and then did similar a time or two more.
All up they committed 12 turnovers in the first spell, with Griffin gifting away five of those. That meant they spent the bulk of their time playing catch up, aside from a period in the second quarter when they established a four-goal lead.
At that point the Pulse really should've kicked on. But, again, they offered away possession and went to halftime trailing 25-24.
There were moments when they played with real fluidity and skill, only to follow that up with some mis-communication or poor execution. Coach Robyn Broughton has come to learn that this team require gentle encouragement and reinforcement, but her body language was anything but positive as she sat courtside.
That left Broughton with two options, which she immediately took at halftime. Off went Griffin, who'd again earned a start because Donna Wilkins' tender ankle, along with centre Elias Shadrock.
Wilkins went into the shooting circle alongside Irene van Dyk, with Leota in at wing attack and Millie Lees dropping back to Shadrock's spot at centre.
It was curious that Broughton didn't begin the game with that combination. It's easily her best, so you can only assume Wilkins and Leota weren't considered fit enough to last 60 minutes.
The Pulse are a generous team, so it took a few minutes for the changes to have their desired effect. There were a couple more turnovers, before a 33-29 lead was established.
Leota was proving as safe as ever and Wilkins shooting at 100 percent, but it was the work of the defensive trio of Katrina Grant, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Joline Henry that was enabling the shift in momentum to happen.
Grant loves to go hunting from goal keep and, with Henry setting her up, was able to claim three intercepts. Henry had that many herself, plus a trio of deflections, as the Pulse began to accumulate a ready supply of ball.
Doing the right thing with it would continue to be their challenge, but the signs were promising by the time they got to the end of the third quarter leading 38-33.
They were able to keep the lead in that range, during most of the last 15 minutes. It was hardly a comfortable advantage, but it proved decisive enough.