Melbourne Vixens too strong for Central Pulse
The Central Pulse ended their home run, for the trans-Tasman netball league season, with a 49-41 loss to the Melbourne Vixens at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena.
It was the Pulse of old in the first half - in more ways than one.
For starters, Joline Henry went back to wing defence after four games at centre. Three of those had been won and without her as one of the principle feeders into the shooting circle, the team battled.
They trailed 18-8 after the first quarter, which was a true reflection of how well each team had delivered the ball to their shooters.
The Vixens got it into the circle 21 times and the Pulse 11, as Camilla Lees and, firstly, Katarina Cooper, then Ngarama Milner-Olsen had looked after possession.
Cooper's night, and season, ended prematurely when he left knee appeared to give way with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Initial indications were that the injury was serious and an ambulance arrived at halftime to take her to hospital.
Goal defence Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit didn't start the second quarter either, due to what looked like a left foot or ankle problem.
That meant Victoria Smith was installed in the line-up for the first time all season.
The Pulse were still struggling, but not because of the mounting injury toll.
The lack of care with possession continued to be the cause and before long the Vixens led 22-11.
Gradually the Pulse improved, narrowing the margin to just five goals at one stage, before finishing the half down 28-22.
Individually, several Pulse players have had useful and, even, fine seasons.
But as a group they've consistently coughed up far too much possession and were soon 10 goals down again, as the Vixens methodically brought the ball down court.
Henry and captain Katrina Grant are pretty good at picking up turnovers, but you start to need an awful lost of those if your team-mates then throw that ball away.
The pair were at their combative and inspirational best in the third quarter and still it wasn't enough to make any significant dent on the margin.
In fact, the Pulse trailed by an extra goal by the final break - down 38-31.
Thanks to Henry and Grant, the disparity in attempts wasn't nearly as great, with the Vixens only having had 44 compared to the Pulse's 42, the poorest shooting team in the league, in terms of volume, the Pulse were up to old tricks in that regard too.
And yet, through the relentlessness of their defence, they continued to stay in the game.
They shot the first three goals of the final quarter to give their adoring home fans at least some hope that their final home match of the season might still end in victory.
There was a late re-shuffle of the line-up, following a Vixens time out, but no further resurgence as the visitors hung on win with eight goals to spare.