Gutsy Pulse make more history
The Central Pulse will meet the Southern Steel for the national premiership title.
The Pulse, playing in the playoffs for the first time, withstood a sensational individual display by Mystics skipper Maria Tutaia, to claim a thrilling 59-52 victory at Wellington’s TSB Bank Arena on Sunday.
So long one of New Zealand netball’s also-rans, this was sweet for the Pulse and their fans. The Steel will still start Wednesday’s grand final in Invercargill as unbackable favourites, but you never know.
After all, the Mystics looked destined to win for the bulk of this elimination final.
It’s hard to play a better opening half of netball than Tutaia did.
You can’t ignore the shooting. It was an incredible display, really, but matched by the poise and accuracy of her general play. Some shooters are merely that; Tutaia is a complete player and that was plain for all to see, as she almost single-handedly engineered a 30-28 halftime lead for the Mystics.
Circle defenders Anna Harrison and Storm Purvis were having their moments and wing attack Elisapeta Toeava fed Tutaia and goal shoot Bailey Mes very well at times.
But Tutaia was tremendous, particularly in light of how Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka were going for the Pulse.
The defensive duo were really putting Mes under the pump, but couldn’t seem to make any impression upon Tutaia.
At the other end, the Pulse were okay. After getting out to an early two-goal lead, the hosts ended up losing the first quarter 16-10. Tutaia shot 13 of those.
Pulse goal shoot Cathrine Tuivaiti mixed brilliance with moments when she probably tried to do too much, while goal attack
‘‘It's hard to play a better opening half of netball than Tutaia did.’’
Tiana Metuarau was doing her best. It’s just that everyone looked a bit second-rate compared to Tutaia.
If there was an encouraging aspect for the Pulse, it was that they were still in the game.
Having been six goals behind at the start of the third quarter, they’d come back to within two after six minutes. The Mystics pushed it back out to five goals, before a late rally made it 30-28 with half an hour to go.
The visitors maintained a one or two-goal advantage for much of the third quarter, until the Pulse went 43-42 up inside the final two minutes. They hadn’t led since the opening quarter, but went into the final period clinging to a 45-44 advantage.
Tutaia was comparatively quiet in the quarter and went to the last break with ‘‘just’’ 28/28.
She finally had a miss, as the Pulse quickly established a fivegoal lead. Both teams were desperate by this point and the turnovers mounted.
Metuarau and Tuivaiti did fantastically well to enable the Pulse to hold the advantage and they finished worthy winners.
Defender Phoenix Karaka claims a rebound for the Central Pulse.