Tactix pip Pulse in end-to-end thriller
In match that remained on a knife-edge throughout, it was the Tactix who kept their winning streak intact after posting a heart-stopping 50-49 win over Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in Christchurch on Sunday.
Leading by four with eight minutes to go, it looked as if the home side, playing the first ANZ Premiership match in Rangiora, had gained the edge in a fiercely contested clash where neither side gave an inch and the result remained in doubt until the final whistle.
With four minutes to go, and the scores all tied up, the turnovers and opportunities came thick and fast, the Tactix denying a late-charging Pulse and holding on to grab the points.
Showing a big improvement from last week, the Pulse had their moments, the smallest of lapses proving costly in a game where the margins were small, both sides having 57 shots at goal, the visitors in the end left with a valuable consolation bonus point.
There were no surprises in either line-up, Tactix captain Kimiora Poi continuing in the relatively unfamiliar role of wing attack for the hosts while rising young Pulse shooter Amelia Walmsley secured her fourth straight start of the season.
With two quality sides on show, the intent was in evidence from the outset. Across all the numbers, there was very little to separate the teams through the first stanza, both sets of attackers distributing strong through-court play, resulting in few opportunities for turnovers.
Respective shooters, Aliyah Dunn, up against her old side, and Walmsley received plenty of precision ball while providing the accurate finishing, all leaving the Tactic with a narrow 12-11 lead at the first break.
A similar pattern continued on the resumption, two in a row for the Pulse pushing the defending champions into the slimmest of leads as a goal-for-goal stand-off ensued.
Playmaking goal attacks, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, for the home side, and Tiana Metuarau were instrumental in the creative side and setting up play for their shooters, both getting through a big workload.
Poi made her presence felt, both on attack and defensively, but it was the Pulse’s slick and ever-moving attack line that continued to make inroads. The positioning of Walmsley, under the hoop, strong hands and accurate shooting was a feature with Whitney Souness and Maddy Gordon delivering pin-point service.
She also handled the ever-present disruption created by Karin Burger and Jane Watson with poise.
At the other end, long-limbed defender Kelly Jury was an equally effective spoiler, her long reach and tight marking causing hesitation in the Tactix ranks. Making the most of their turnover opportunities, it was the Pulse who nudged into a 25-23 lead at the main break.
With the Tactix making a furious start to the third stanza and beefing up their defensive exploits across the court, it was the irrepressible play of dynamic defender Watson, who steered the course of the match back in the home side’s favour.
Selby-Rickit and Dunn were more available on first phase play while the chemistry between the pair rose to new levels. Feeding off Watson’s trademark ability to create and win turnover opportunities pushed the Tactix into a small but handy advantage.
Having the better of the third stanza, the Tactix left the Pulse with everything to play for when leading 38-35 at the last turn.
Aliyah Dunn 33/37 (89.2%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 17/20 (85%)
Amelia Walmsley 40/45 (88.9%)
Tiana Metuarau 9/12 (75%)
MVP: Jane Watson