Jubilant Pulse fend off Stars to secure 2019 Grand Final
June 6, 2019
Te Wananga O Raukawa Pulse have finally etched their name in New Zealand netball history as the 2019 ANZ Premiership champions.
Putting the nightmare of last year’s final behind them – where they lost their grasp on the trophy in the final minutes – the Pulse held off a valiant Northern Stars to take out the Grand Final, 52-48, a just reward for a rapturous home crowd in Porirua.
The Pulse have been in every final in the past three years, but this time they held strong, making their break in the third quarter, then keeping the Stars at arm’s length throughout the fourth.
The home team performed an emotional haka on court at the end of an intense 60 minutes, and then shed tears of joy when the reality of their victory flooded over them.
``It’s awesome. It’s almost a bit of a relief as much as excitement. It was a tight match as you would expect in a final but a brilliant finish,’’ Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie said.
``It’s been a really neat season and it’s hard to measure. Last season was a great season as well but this one caps it off.’’
Both sides brought skill, passion and pride to the final, but it was the Pulse – minor championship winners and a team who had only grown stronger from last season’s disappointment – who triumphed.
For the Stars, a team only three years in existence, it was another fearless effort, and marked the end of three enduring careers – Temepara Bailey, Leana de Bruin and Ellen Halpenny.
The Stars began with the same line-up they started with in their elimination final victory five days before. And there were no surprises in the starting seven for the Pulse, who hadn’t played a match in 14 days.
It was a strong start from the Stars, who announced their intentions by contesting every ball, but the Pulse were quick to respond, and established the first three-goal lead six minutes into the match.
Although Ameliaranne Ekenasio struggled to find her range, shooting partner Aliyah Dunn was quickest to the rebounds under the Pulse hoop. And with Sulu Fitzpatrick reading the game beautifully on defence, the difference stretched to five.
But the clever, reliable hands of veteran defender de Bruin put the Stars back into the reckoning, cutting the deficit to two, 12-10, by the end of the first quarter.
Tiana Metuarau replaced Ekenasio at goal attack to get the Pulse’s second quarter assault underway, and the young shooting duo showed their innate understanding, with Metuarua deftly feeding Dunn. Katrina Rore picked up a crucial intercept which triggered another Pulse surge – taking the gap back out to six.
But the Stars weren’t going to be outdone, and another sharp de Bruin intercept sent them on a run of four, bringing it back to a two-goal ballgame, which they held right until halftime, when the Pulse led 27-25.
Bailey was setting up Maia Wilson superbly under the Stars goal, and in the third quarter moved from centre to wing attack, allowing Holly Fowler into the game.
The Stars continued their charge, as Kayla Cullen stormed through the court to collect an important tip, and Charlee Hodges finished it off with another accurate long shot. Suddenly, the Stars had drawn even, 30-all.
But the Pulse, no doubt driven by the packed Porirua crowd and the threatening score-line, found their rhythm again. Under the influence of captain Rore, they poured the pressure on the Stars and went on another offensive to lead by six, 40-34, at the three-quarter break.
Desperate to stay in touch, the Stars switched back to their original midcourt combination of Mila Reulu-Buchanan and Bailey. They refused to let the Pulse take control of the game and matched them goal-for-goal right through the last 15 minutes.
With Dunn standing strong, on 93 percent accuracy, and Ekenasio finally finding her range, the Pulse just held off the Stars for as long as it took to secure the victors’ trophy.