May 2, 2021
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse were left to rue another slow start after they fell 56-52 to the Southern Steel in Invercargill on Sunday.
The smart attacking play and defensive abilities of Tiana Metuarau came back to haunt her old team as she played a key role in helping shut down a late-charging Pulse in the final quarter. Leading by two at three-quarter time and with the game in the balance, Metuarau was a strong presence in an exciting momentum swinging match.
On their home court, the Steel held sway during an impressive first half before a rejuvenated Pulse made a match of it by roaring back into contention with a forceful third quarter. Despite a much-improved second half, little moments cost the Pulse, although they did earn a bonus point for their efforts.
``Again, it was not a great start from us when we went down by a fair few in that first quarter which was disappointing,’’ Pulse captain Claire Kersten said afterwards. ``To go backwards again in that area was not great.
``I was really pleased that we got ourselves into a position to win but we just couldn’t push on. So, it was disappointing not to be able to finish it off but getting the bonus point was important.’’
There were no surprises in either line-up, the well-drilled and disciplined Steel getting the march on the visitors with a forceful opening to the match.
A couple of early intercepts from defender Taneisha Fifita handed the momentum the Steel’s way, the home side seamless with their delivery through court and into the safe hands of key shooter George Fisher.
In comparison, the Pulse struggled with their connections on attack, quickly falling behind as the Steel did a fine job in shutting the supply of ball to their main scorer Aliyah Dunn. Things further deteriorated for the Pulse when wing defence Maddy Gordon was forced off with an ankle injury.
She was replaced by Paris Lokotui but it was the Steel who continued to impress while forging a handy lead which blew out to a 10-goal advantage before a late rally from the Pulse left the Steel with a 14-10 lead at the first break.
There was more attacking impetus from the Pulse on the resumption, but it was well matched by the home side with the growing partnership between Fisher and Metuarau flourishing. Their movement and smart play had the Pulse defenders on the back foot for much of the first half.
After coming back on for the second quarter, an uncomfortable Gordon was again forced off as the Pulse struggled to make any inroads against the home side. The Steel had the wood on the Pulse attacking end as they kept their composure while building a 29-22 lead at the main break.
The Pulse started the all-important third stanza with a bang as they made their move with a more decisive and accurate intent on attack. Through the quick movement of Whitney Souness and Kersten, more ball found its way into Dunn’s hands who rewarded her team with their best scoring return of the match.
Long-limbed defender Kelly Jury chimed in with timely intercept opportunities as the Pulse stalled the Steel’s attacking momentum. Five straight goals helped the Pulse draw level late in the piece before hitting the lead for the first time.
In a frantic run to three-quarter time, it was the Steel who kept their noses in front when leading 39-37 at the last turn to leave an exciting finale in store.
George Fisher 48/52 (92%)
Tiana Metuarau 8/8 (100%)
Aliyah Dunn 38/39 (97%)
Te Amo Amaru-Tibble 14/18 (78%)
MVP: Tiana Metuarau (Steel)