Pulse stun Stars with first loss in 2021 season
CENTRAL Pulse have caused a major upset this week, handing the Northern Stars their first loss of the season, 57-44. It was a tale of two halves with the Stars and Pulse unable to be split in the opening half before the latter turned up the heat in the third and fourth to keep their opponents to a mere 19 goals compared to their 31.
It was an error ridden first term of play but both sides managed to convert off their centre pass. Jamie Hume started with a hot hand for the Stars not only on the shooting front but so too on the feed to deliver it seamlessly into Maia Wilson. The Stars rallied with two goals in a row and were on the hunt for their third straight if it was not for Maddy Gordon’s twinkle toes around circle edge to cleanly intercept the ball and propel her side back into attack. Kelera Nawai found her rhythm nice and early getting some handy tips and deflections to upset the Stars’ attacking flow. The contest between Wilson and Nawai was enthralling to watch as the duo refused to give an inch. A swing in momentum gifted the Pulse a handy goal lead but that was short-lived as the Stars bit back thanks to an Anna Harrison intercept with the goal defence dropping back into the space to pick up the crumbs.
Within a blink of an eye the Stars were back out to a three goal lead. The home side continued to force the Pulse into unforced errors while they did not skip a beat, particularly in the goal circle. Their second-phase play was causing all sorts of headaches for the Pulse as the Stars zipped down the court in the knick of time. The lead ballooned out to five goals, thanks to a flurry of goals but was just as easily culled with Aliyah Dunn leading the troops in attack. Her fancy footwork along the goal line gave her the upper hand against Elle Temu as they went on a three-goal spree of their own. Gordon was coming into her own, showcasing her impressive aerial ability with a strong contest to regain possession and with three passes down the court the ball landed in the hands of Dunn. A late rally from the Pulse saw them edge closer however Dunn landed the final blow of the term for the Stars to hold a one-goal buffer.
Speedster Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was off to a blinder with the centre proving to have the ball on a string in attack. Lisa Mather was making a nuisance of herself around circle edge but infringed a little too heavily and was handed a caution. The Stars were starting to gain some real momentum but Nawai was not about to back down as she danced her way around Wilson to force another turnover. The Pulse’s ability to convert off the turnover was keeping them in the game but Hume was running freely against Kelly Jury and the Stars were once again able to assert their dominance. Neither team could buy a goal at the ball flew up and down the court with no real success.
Harrison copped a late knock which forced her to leave the court making way for Oceane Maihi in goal defence and Temu to shuffle back into keeper. The Pulse were humming in attack as Claire Kersten and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble combined seamlessly to work the ball into Dunn as the visitors opened up a three goal lead. But much like the rest of the game, the Stars hustled their way back into the contest with their quick transition and defensive pressure coming to the fore. Every single pass was contested in the Pulse attacking end as they were clogged to one side of the court and unable to penetrate. The term was dictated by defensive wins as Temu starred with her clean hands while up the other end Jury impressed with her aerial presence to gobble up a rebound.
Up by a mere goal the Pulse looked to extend their lead nailing the first goal of the second half to create a two goal ball-game. Gina Crampton came out with a point to prove in the third with her drive at the centre pass and lightning-quick footwork around circle edge enabling her to control the frontend. Reuelu-Buchanan was having a day to remember, coming flying through for a beautiful intercept but her centre counterpart said anything you can do, I can do better. The ball travelled up and down the court with plenty of speed as both sides struggled to find that level of continuity.
The speed of Whitney Souness was coming to the fore with the wing attack creating a wealth of space and forcing the Stars to make a change in the form of Greer Sinclair. The Pulse’s tails were well and truly up as they piled on six goals straight as Amaru-Tibble appeared to have the ball on a string. The lead blew out to a whopping six goals in favour of the Pulse as the Stars entered unfamiliar territory. Kiri Wills needed an answer, and she needed one now opting to bring Harrison back onto court while Wilson moved to the bench as Amorangi Malesala entered the fray with a long bomb to eat into the margin.
The final quarter intensified as both sides brought out the party tricks. Malesala did not skip a beat for the Stars with the young goal shooter commanding the ball and delivering. Up the other end, Amaru-Tibble was doing much of the same while Gordon was involved in just about everything whether it be defence or transition into attack. With the lead getting out to 10 goals the Pulse were determined not to rest on their laurels, consistently looking for ways to edge ahead. Things got testing for both sides with warnings handed out left, right and centre to close out the game as the Pulse recorded their second victory for the season.
Dunn led the charge with 35 goals from 39 attempts as Amaru-Tibble also starred thanks to her 22 goals at 82 per cent along with her seven goal assists. Speaking of goal assists, Kersten racked up 22 while down in defence Nawai had a breakout game amassing a whopping 12 pickups – five of those intercepts – and only six contacts for the entire match. Gordon was also a livewire for the Pulse recording four gains and two intercepts. Wilson was down on her usual output with 23 goals while Hume was a pillar of consistency nailing 13 goals and 12 goal assists. Crampton had the ball on a string with 20 goal assists while down back Harrison was the barometer credit to her six gains and three intercepts.