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Pulse continue winning momentum against table-topping Mystics

Midcourter Maddy Gordon was a key figure in the Pulse's close win over the table-topping Mystics. Photo: PhotoWellington

Looking to make inroads, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse started the second half of the season in perfect fashion when closing out a tense 55-53 win over the table-topping Northern Mystics in Auckland on Saturday.

It reversed the result of 12 days ago when the Mystics secured a five-goal win in the opening clash between the pair in Wellington. It was just the second loss of the season for the Mystics.

A rampant opening by the Pulse was matched by the Mystics in the second stanza to leave the game almost on level terms at halftime before a steadying third quarter gave the visitors a five-goal buffer heading down the home straight.

With the crowd behind them, the Mystics threw everything at their opponents, the Pulse holding their nerve, the experienced heads of Tiana Metuarau, Whitney Souness and Maddy Gordon delivering a steady and safe brand of netball to ensure the points went in their favour.

It was a nerve-wracking outing for the Pulse, who enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession, a shaky conversion rate causing some anxious moments after having 75 shots at goal compared to the Mystics 58.

For the third week in a row, the Mystics lined up without injured captain Sulu Fitzpatrick while experienced midcourter Tayla Earle was also missing, resulting in a rare start at centre for youngster Katie Te Ao.

With Earle out injured, former team member Claire O’Brien was flown in from Australia as cover for the home side.

On the back of tidy and patient execution, the Pulse made a dream start to dominate the opening stanza. Sharp interplay through court where midcourter Gordon excelled on both attack and defence, the visitors got a stream of quality ball into the hands of shooter Amelia Walmsley.

At the other end, the Pulse defenders knocked the Mystics attackers off their stride to deny them any sense of timing. With 22 shots at goal compared to the Mystics 10, the Pulse completed a fine first quarter with a handy 18-9 lead.

The reply from the home side was swift with wholesale changes the result on the resumption. Monica Falkner took over from Filda Vui at goal attack, O’Birien came off the bench to centre with Te Ao going to wing defence, and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson moving into goal defence.

The changes had an almost instant impact, the home side repairing much of the damage with a rampant second spell. Sokolich-Beatson and Phoenix Karaka turned up the heat on the Pulse shooters while the Mystics impetus and penetration on attack helped the home side eat into the deficit.

By the time the main break arrived, there was nothing in the contest with the Pulse holding onto a tenuous 28-27 lead.

A goal-for-goal stand-off ensued at the start of the third stanza before a three-goal run gave the Pulse the slightest of edges in an increasingly defensive game.

With the intensity levels lifting, a right royal battle played out in an absorbing contest, the Pulse suffering some shooting wobbles under the constant pressure from Sokolich-Beatson and Karaka but the visitors re-found their touch late in the piece.

The Peta Toeava/Grace Nweke combination had its moments as the Mystics ground their way into contention but midcourt dynamo Gordon ensured the Pulse held onto a hard-fought 44-39 lead at the last turn.

Shooting stats

Grace Nweke 41/44 (93%)
Monica Falkner 11/13 (85%)

Amelia Walmsley 35/50 (70%)
Tiana Metuarau 18/20 (90%)

MVP: Maddy Gordon (Pulse)