The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's unbeaten start to the trans-Tasman league season is over after going down to the Central Pulse in extra time in Hamilton last night.
Veteran shooter Irene van Dyk got a decent reception from the 2696 at Claudelands Arena in her first outing against her old team, and she came away on the winning side.
The Pulse came into the match desperate to resurrect their fading season, while the Magic were looking to make it six from six, but will now go into their bye and re-assess things.
The teams went so toe to toe that it took more than four quarters to separate them.
Neither blinked first and the Pulse took a 50-49 lead to the second seven-minute period. That was quickly extended to two, then three, then four, thanks to a couple of fine bits of work from Joline Henry.
With an enormous 466 test caps in the shooting circle between van Dyk, Donna Wilkins, Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin, it was always going to be an intriguing matchup.
The standout moment was a brilliant leaping Kopua block on van Dyk (32/36) in the third quarter that drew wry laughter from the shooter, who was able to have the last laugh too. Wilkins (24/29) was hot from range, but collectively the Pulse duo's stats were well down on normal, despite some excellent service from Camilla Lees.
At the other end of the court, Jo Harten (26/27) and Ellen Halpenny (27/28) had a big job to do against Silver Ferns Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, but did it well, despite Henry not allowing Grace Rasmussen to control things like she has recently.
For the second week running, the Magic were slow out of the blocks, but this first quarter was their poorest of the season.
Both teams were guilty of making early errors, however it was the home side that was very tentative in bringing the ball down court, and it was duly punished, down 5-0.
It took the Magic two seconds shy of four minutes to even put up their first attempt, but they did manage to fight back to 6-6, before going to quarter time behind 14-11.
The Pulse held their lead through the second quarter, but the Magic lifted.
Courtney Tairi produced a nice pick-up to help spark them and soon after Rasmussen pulled off an intercept and the Magic took the lead for the first time, extending it to 23-21 by halftime, with van Dyk not able to halve the deficit when time was called with the ball in her hands.
There was a scary moment for the Magic in the closing minutes of the half, when Kopua was left clutching at the under side of her right arm, which hung limply.
But the tough skipper didn't call a timeout and took her place on court to start the third quarter, where she produced a couple of big plays to give her side possession.
Things ebbed and flowed through the third spell, although the visitors weren't able to take the lead, the score tied at 33-33 going into the last quarter.
Halpenny then stepped up to net some pressure goals, before Wilkins gave the Pulse the lead at 38-37.
But Halpenny, serving up her Ferns credentials big time, made the crowd roar with six minutes to play as she intercepted a loose ball, provided for Harten then shot herself for a two-goal lead.
Some stray balls had the Pulse go ahead by one and Wilkins landed from long-range to keep the lead, before the Magic remained composed and Harten sunk for 45-45 and extra time.
AT A GLANCE
Pulse 56 (14-7-12-12-11)
Magic 53 (11-12-10-12-8)
- Waikato Times