The Central Pulse still can't find their ruthless streak, but were still good enough to beat the Southern Steel 67-56 without it.
The Pulse, who failed to put away the Adelaide Thunderbirds earlier this week, are at least off the mark for the trans-Tasman Netball League season, after consigning the Steel to their second loss in as many starts at Wellington's TSB Bank Arena today.
The Pulse enjoyed the ascendency from the first centre pass, quickly establishing a three-goal lead. Getting the ball through court to goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid was proving difficult for the Steel, in what was going to become a bit of a pattern.
The home team were having an easier time of it, even if that didn't prevent them throwing possession away at semi-regular intervals. But the most impressive part of the Pulse's early performance was the way they worked off the ball.
The quality of their defensive structure began to create opportunities for goal keep Katrina Grant, as the Steel resorted to pressure passes which the Pulse captain could come out and get.
By quarter time the Pulse led 18-14 and that advantage rapidly became nine goals. They looked primed to extend that further, but a couple of turnovers enabled the Steel to get things back to six.
That's where the deficit stayed until the Pulse put on a small run before halftime, to lead 34-26.
Steel coach Janine Southby reacted in surprising style, by benching Silver Ferns wing attack Shannon Francois. Wellingtonian Gina Crampton came on for her, while Storm Purvis replaced Phoenix Karaka in the defensive circle.
That wasn't such a shock, given Pulse shooters Irene van Dyk and Donna Wilkins had only missed one shot between them in the first 30 minutes. But Francois and Karaka are Silver Ferns and the Steel aren't so flush with talent that they can afford to have two of their best players sitting.
The dividends from the switches weren't immediately reaped either, as the Pulse pulled away to 11, then 12 goals in front.
After the wasteful way the Pulse threw away a winning opportunity against the Thunderbirds on Monday, it was nice to see them building a useful lead. But, as much as anything, the scoreline simply indicated that the Steel aren't in the Thunderbirds' league.
The Pulse are better than the Steel, so it was hardly an achievement to beat them. What was going to be interesting was to see how hard the Pulse could be on themselves and how far they could push their advantage in the final quarter.
The Steel were back to 50-41 by three-quarter time and it was clear one or two Pulse players felt that was closer than the visitors ought to have been.
Southby went to the bench again, introducing Erena Mikaere to partner Purvis, while Pulse coach Robyn Broughton stuck with the same seven players who'd played unchanged through the first seven quarters of their campaign.
They didn't really do the trick and it seemed like a close game might finally break out as the Steel got back to 51-46 and then held the deficit at about six goals. It was sloppy stuff from the Pulse and not reflective of the disparity that should've existed between the two teams.
Broughton didn't think so either, finally making a change. Joline Henry left wing defence for centre, in a swap with Elias Shadrock. Henry has an ability to sharpen up the Pulse's attack from centre and the move was probably overdue.
- Fairfax Media