Winning start for defending champions
March 15, 2020
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse made the perfect start to their title defence after absorbing and then pouncing to negate The Good Oil Tactix with a hard-fought 53-41 win in Blenheim today.
The Pulse were forced to bide their time after facing a spirited first half challenge from the talented Tactix before showcasing their own credentials in the second half.
New wing attack Maddy Gordon, playing her first full game for the Pulse, found her feet in the second half through her ability to find space along with some diligent feeding. She was well-backed up by unflappable shooter Aliyah Dunn, who was a rock-solid presence under the hoop with an enterprising return of 35 goals from 38 attempts.
In full swing by the final quarter, there was no looking back for the Pulse, who finished a tough first assignment well in control.
``By the third quarter, we were developing a little bit of momentum and added some urgency which carried through for us,’’ Pulse vice-captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio said afterwards.
``We’ve been working so hard and it’s so cool for it to turn out like this for us. There’s always heaps to work on and we’re probably guilty of being perfectionists at times but we’re really happy with today and knowing that we can still be better.’’
The Tactix welcomed injured duo Temalisi Fakahokotau and Erikana Pedersen back to the fray while introducing new recruit in Silver Ferns shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
For the Pulse, lanky goalkeeper Kelly Jury, still on managed minutes due to her comeback from injury, got her first official start for her new team.
The opening half produced plenty of intensity but neither side could find enough decent rhythm or flow on attack. In a typical first-up outing, fortunes ebbed and flowed with both sets of defences proving stumbling blocks to attacking options.
The Pulse forged a handy four-goal lead during the opening stanza before a late rally from the hosts, where Selby-Rickit nailed a run of long-range shots, handed the Tactix a narrow 12-11 lead at the first break.
With Elle Timu sharing duties for the match with Jury, the grind continued on the resumption, the Pulse forced to play a slow and deliberate style as both teams tried to nullify the defensive attention. Four goals on the trot helped the Pulse re-take the lead.
But continued defensive pressure paid off for the Tactix, who scored five of their own to leave the match at a 22-all stalemate at the main break.
Jury made in a return to the action for the third stanza, the Pulse getting away to a slick start with some seamless interchange through court but the Tactix remained a dogged presence in ensuring the contest remained tight and furious.
Dunn and midcourter Claire Kersten were consistent contributors for the Pulse while the defensive pairing of Fakahokotau and Jane Watson were a constant threat in the Tactix side.
Holding their composure in an abrasive contest, the Pulse clicked up a notch in the third stanza, finding their flow with some sweeping attacking momentum while Dunn and Ekenasio provided the finishing touches under the hoop.
The defensive unit of Jury, Katrina Rore and Karin Burger also came to party as the full Pulse court connected as one, allowing them to grab the initiative and keep their opponents at arm’s-length.
Samon Nathan took over from Pedersen at wing attack for the Tactix late in the quarter but it was the Pulse who maintained a decisive edge when leading 38-31 at the last break.
Aliyah Dunn 35/38 (92%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 18/22 (82%)
Ellie Bird 26/29 (90%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 15/22 (68%)