On the back of a storming start, Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse have netted a key win over the Mystics to become the first team to book their spot in the ANZ Premiership Finals Series.
In a top-of-the-table clash, the Pulse leapfrogged the Mystics into top rung on the Premiership ladder with a 62-56 win in front of a full house at TSB Arena in Wellington on Sunday.
``We got away to a fantastic start which set us up really well,’’ Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie said. ``Everyone stayed really clear on the plan and having a lead helps, it takes the pressure off you compared to chasing.
``I’m really proud of them all and I think a number of them had a really good player of the match performance at different times. And, we’ve given ourselves a life.
``We needed to make sure we didn’t given them any points (bonus) and keep the pressure on which we did.’’
It came after they were quick out of the blocks, dominating on defence and attack to pull the Mystics to pieces in a statement spell that they won 19-9.
As expected, the Mystics returned fire and came within three to set the Round 11 match alight, surging twice from 10 goals down but the Pulse absorbed the mounting pressure to finish strongly for the key win.
Rubbing salt into the wound, the Pulse denied the Mystics a bonus point which would have secured the northerners their place in the Finals Series as well.
With plenty riding on the result – namely a spot in the play-offs – there were no passes uncontested in a frenzied opening spell and despite a couple of early turnovers, the scores remained locked after five minutes.
Holding the best defensive record in the league, the Pulse gave no room to the Mystics’ attacking unit as Kelly Jury, Kristiana Manu’a, Fa’amu Ioane and Maddy Gordon all got their hands to ball.
At the other end of the court, Pulse feeders only had eyes for Amelia Walmsley who was their main target in the shooting circle with well-weighted deliveries to the shooter, but Tiana Metuarau warmed to her task and came into the action as the spell progressed to help the hosts to a handy 9-5 lead.
In contrast, the Mystics were given few opportunities to showcase their strengths as the Pulse dictated the tempo, play and direction of the opening stanza, going into the first break with a commanding 19-9 advantage.
Ioane and Gordon, who put in an MVP performance, typified the Pulse’s intent on the resumption of play as they continued to keep the pressure on the Mystics frontline.
But after being run off the ball in the first quarter, the Mystics were more deliberate with their play on attack finding Grace Nweke with a combination of circle edge feeds and long feeds.
The chance to make inroads into the difference were few, but when the Mystics got the opportunities, they grabbed them with both hands to come within five – wing defence Michaela Sokolich-Beatson nabbing two key turnovers.
With their resurgence, winning the quarter 18-14, momentum swung the way of the visitors as the intensity again lifted and the Mystics headed into the halftime break trailing 27-33.
Neither side made any changes for the second half, but it was again the Pulse who put a couple of goals on their opponents before the Mystics replied.
A wayward radar from Walmsley was the opening that the Mystics needed however as they went on a four-goal run to come within striking distance of the hosts.
But the young Pulse shooter was pivotal for the defending champions, and despite a few wobbles continued to put her hand up under mounting pressure.
Both teams went to their benches in the third spell with Parris Mason replacing Manu’a at goal defence while the Mystics brought on Katie Te Ao for Tayla Earle at centre.
A clean intercept from Jury gave the Pulse more breathing space and prompted yet another personnel change for the Mystics with Carys Stythe coming on for Sulu Fitzpatrick in a bid to nullify Walmsley’s impact with the Pulse leading 49-41 at the last turn.
Tiana Metuarau 15/15 (100%)
Amelia Walmsley 47/57 (82.5%)
Grace Nweke 46/51 (90.2%)
Filda Vui 10/15 (66.7%)
MVP: Maddy Gordon