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Last-gasp goal gets Pulse home over Steel

Co-captain Kelly Jury got her hands to more turnover opportunities in the second half as the Pulse clinched a late winner to pip the Steel. Photo: PhotoWellington

Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse managed to clinch a fifth straight win but had to wait until the final four seconds before pinching a 44-43 win over a brave Southern Steel in Invercargill on Saturday.

In rare territory, the home side took a five-goal lead into halftime, the Pulse recovering from a slow start and less ball in their hands before recovering to mount a second half comeback.

With the scores tied up at three-quarter time, a goal-for-goal stand-off unfolded with neither side giving an inch in a physical and willing contest. The Steel twice fought back from two goal deficits to level the scores while also having the chance to take the win with 40 seconds on the clock.

Their inexperience showed as the Pulse picked off a turnover, Amelia Walmsley nailing the hard-fought winner on the stroke of fulltime.

``A win is a win and we’ll take it,’’ Pulse co-captain Kelly Jury said afterwards.

``It felt a bit jittery on attack during that first half and the Steel came out really well and they did a good job to slow our game down.

``But it showed (for the second week in a row) that we’ve got the fight. We know that it’s a 60- minute game and not to panic when we were down. We know there’s a few cracks that showed tonight which isn’t a bad thing and it’s a good wake-up call.’’

Both teams wore black armbands to honour the memory of Taini Jamison, the first New Zealand coach to guide the Silver Ferns to a World Cup title, in the sport’s second edition of the event in 1967, who passed away yesterday.

There were several notable match-ups in this contest with Silver Ferns aspirants, Kate Heffernan for the home side and Maddy Gordon squaring off at centre and Sam Winders (wing defence) taking on fleet-footed Pulse wing attack Whitney Souness.

The Steel belied their status as the bottom-placed team this season and winless, to control first half proceedings.

Defence ruled from the outset, the lead changing hands several times in the opening exchanges before the Steel’s resilience paid off as they built a mini-break.

Kate Burley and experienced captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit put Pulse shooter Walmsley under the pump while Kate Heffernan was prominent in hunting turnover ball. Both teams had their moments but it was the Steel’s constant hustle while slowing the Pulse’s flow that helped the home side hit the first break with a 12-9 lead.

There was a similar pattern on the resumption. Shooter Joyce Mvula got some extra minutes after taking over from Walmsley late in the first quarter but the Pulse continued to be hampered by costly turnovers.

The swarming and relentless defence of the Steel subsequently turned into more flow on attack as the home side grew in confidence. The Pulse struggled to find their groove, unable to play their free-flowing style while being forced into a real arm-wrestle.

Pushing out to a five-goal lead, their biggest of the season, the Steel enjoyed more ball, having 28 shots compared to their opponent’s 19 as they held on to complete the first half with the advantage when leading 22-17.

Walmsley made her return for the Pulse after receiving some knee repairs while Parris Mason was also introduced at goal defence as the visitors made their move in a productive third quarter.

Having the tall target of Walmsley, who made a strong impact, the visitors found more flow on attack, while the volume and accuracy also made a return. Three goals on the trot dragged the Pulse back on to level terms before they nudged into the lead with 90 seconds to go.

Tightening up their defence allowed goalkeeper Kelly Jury to get her hands on more ball, the Pulse having the better of the quarter but the Steel had the last say to leave the scores all tied up at 32-all heading into the last turn.

Shooting stats

Saviour Tui 31/38 (82%)
Georgia Heffernan 12/14 (86%)

Amelia Walmsley 25/26 (96%)
Tiana Metuarau 13/15 (87%)
Joyce Mvula 6/7 (86%)

MVP: Kate Burley (Steel)