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Stars turn the tide against Pulse

Pulse shooters Amelia Walmsley and Tiana Metuarau had a tough day at the office against the Stars. Photo: PhotoWellington

Opening Round 3 action and featuring last year’s Grand Finalists, the Robinhood Stars turned the tables on Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse to post a decisive 59-51 win in Auckland on Sunday.

Leaving their run too late, the Pulse finished strongly but a rampant third quarter from the home side sealed the match for the team in purple.

The Stars won the possession stakes to hold the upper hand, ending with 69 shots on goal to the Pulse’s 60 and were able to repeal any hints of a comeback. Absorbing pressure and maintaining their impetus at both ends of the court, the Stars left little wriggle room for the Pulse, who just couldn’t find enough cohesion on a consistent basis.  

``The disconnect was right across the court,’’ Pulse co-captain Kelly Jury said.

``Both defence and attack can put their hands up and say, `that wasn’t good enough’. There were some good runs but unfortunately in that third quarter we really shot ourselves in the foot, we just need to learn from that and stand up next week.’’

Illness prevented in-form shooter Amorangi Malesala and similarly effective defender Elle Temu out of the match for the Stars, leading to the surprise inclusion of former Silver Ferns captain Katrina Rore. Coming out of retirement and not having played since 2020, Rore answered an injury-SOS call while ironically coming up against the team she spent the majority of her career playing for.

The Pulse went with their starting line-up of the opening two rounds, meaning a third straight start for rising young shooter Amelia Walmsley.

It was the home side who gained the early upper hand as they dominated a high-scoring opening quarter. The link between wing attack Gina Crampton and shooter Maia Wilson was on-song from the get-go, the Stars captain finding the perfect shooting position with ease.

At the other end, in-circle defenders Holly Fowler and Kelera Nawai-Caucau provided the perfect foil, their combination of mobility and height making life difficult for the Pulse shooters. Having six more shots at goal, it was the Stars who took a handy 17-12 lead into the first break.

Level pegging on the resumption, it was the visitors who made the small gains during the second stanza.

The hard-working midcourt of Maddy Gordon and Whitney Sounds found Walmsley on a more regular basis, the teenaged shooter earning her keep against a willing and ever-present Stars defensive duo.

Showing more resistance on defence, the Pulse narrowed to within one but a late burst by the Stars and the accuracy of Wilson under the hoop, pushed the home side out to a 30-26 lead at the main break.

Rore made her entrance at goal defence in the third quarter, her 148th appearance at this level while looking as if she’d never been away, the Stars turning on another high-scoring stanza to which the Pulse had few answers.

A six-goal unanswered run put the home side in the box seat, the pressure continuing to mount on the Pulse who were guilty of lapsing into error under the onslaught.

The Stars were slick and efficient through court, getting the ball from one end to the other in quick time, the Pulse, conversely, lacking flow and timing on attack as they struggled to get the ball goal-bound. They were kept scoreless for long minutes, adding to the frustration while the imposing presence of Nawai-Caucau continued to leave her mark.

Malawi import Joyce Mvula was injected late in the piece for Walmsley but it was all the Stars who maintained a firm grip when leading 48-37 at the last turn.