Challenging night for Pulse as Tactix play their way into Grand Final
August 10, 2020
The Tactix, who have shown impressive resilience this season, nabbed their place in the grand final with a round to spare, notching up a 39-32 victory over defending champions Te Wānanga O Raukawa Pulse in Wellington on Monday.
It was one for the history books as the Tactix secured a spot in the ANZ Premiership grand final for the first time and the two teams will now meet again in the grand final on neutral ground - in Invercargill - on Sunday, August 23.
It was only the second loss of the season for the Pulse, who played with an unfamiliar line-up - with inspirational captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and sparky midcourter Maddy Gordon out of the reckoning for the game through illness and injury.
``It was a close contest, physical and had all the attributes that you’d expect in a top-of-the-table clash and obviously for the Tactix, it was an opportunity for them to make the Grand Final,’’ Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie said afterwards.
``For us, there were a few challenges there but it was good opportunity to get players out and I thought overall they stood up. We made some uncharacteristic errors and good teams will punish you for those.
``We had a couple of people out of position and it showed a bit but that’s okay, we’ve got a couple of important games coming up to keep building on. We’re in the Grand Final and that’s a lot to be pleased about.’’
The Tactix have had their fair share of misfortune in this competition over the years – including their netball zone going into voluntary liquidation during lockdown, and having to travel north to Auckland every week for six weeks of the competition.
Tonight, they faced a testing turnaround, flying to Wellington after their one-goal win over the Mystics in Auckland the night before. But they showed no signs of fatigue, driven by the desire to seal that finals spot.
With Ekenasio unwell, and Gordon nursing an ankle injury from the weekend, the Pulse started with Claire Kersten at wing attack, Renee Savai’inaea at centre and Tiana Metuarau at goal attack. While the changes contributed, it was still a flat performance from the league leaders, with less-accurate shooting than normal.
While all four shooters had strong starts to the game, Tactix goalkeep Temalisi Fakahokotau soon shook that up, with an intercept and a few useful tips rattling the Pulse attack.
At the other end, Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit continued to grow their connection in the shooting circle and by the end of the quarter the Tactix had established a convincing 13-7 lead.
Even in a position she was unaccustomed to, Kersten worked tirelessly and smartly to feed the Pulse shooters, Metuarau and Aliyah Dunn.
But with equally effective feeding from Tactix midcourters Kimiora Poi and Erikana Pedersen, and dogged defence through court, the gap between the two sides soon stretched out to eight.
At halftime, the Tactix led 23-16 – only the second time this season the Pulse trailed after two quarters.
In a very defence-led quarter, wing defence Karin Burger was unwavering in her work to shut down the Tactix feeders, and behind her Kelly Jury was just as effective, forcing Bird to go hunting for her feeds out of the circle at times. (Burger and Jury finished the game with four intercepts apiece).
A run of three just before three-quarter time saw the Pulse win the quarter 9-7, but still trail by five, 30-25, at the final break.
That was as close as the Pulse would get to turning the result around. Bird continued to shoot impressively, bagging 32 of her 38 shots, and with two minutes to play, and the distance out to eight again, it was almost guaranteed the Tactix would grab their first ticket to a Grand Final.
Aliyah Dunn 20/24 (83.3%)
Tiana Metuarau 12/17 (70.6%)
Ellie Bird 32/38 (84.2%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 7/9 (77.8%)
MVP: Temalisi Fakahokotau (Tactix)