Fourth straight win for rampant Pulse
The pace-setting Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse secured a fourth consecutive win for the first time in their history after dismantling WBOP Magic 61-46 in Hamilton on Sunday.
Having the luxury of using all 10 players, the unbeaten Pulse produced a relentless outing, the middle two thirds in particular showcasing their prowess, in the process leaving the Magic winless.
Showing few chinks in their all-round arsenal, 18-year-old shooter Aliyah Dunn continued to impress for the Pulse with a return of 38 goals from 40 attempts for her 45 minutes of work while midcourter Claire Kersten embraced her new role of centre with another outstanding contribution.
On the back of a horror injury run, Magic were once again forced to rejig their line-up after losing long-limbed defender Kelly Jury to a shoulder dislocation in the previous round. Her place was taken by NZU21 up-and-comer Kate Lloyd. However, influential shooter Lenize Potgieter was back on deck for her first start of the season.
There were no such problems for the Pulse who were able to maintain their winning formula with a settled line-up.
It was furious and frenetic opening by both teams, defensive pressure each way creating a high turnover count. Plenty of patience was required in threading the ball through court, opposing captains Casey Kopua, for Magic, and Katrina Grant, hauling in important gains for their teams from the goal defence position.
Full court defensive pressure pad dividends for the Pulse who nosed into a hard-fought 12-10 lead at the first break.
The visitors moved into overdrive with an influential second spell, hitting their straps with telling effect to leave the Magic scrambling.
The defensive exploits of the experienced Grant, Sulu Fitzpatrick and Karin Burger were relentless in their ability to snuff out Magic’s attacking influence, a five-goal unanswered run pushing the Pulse out to a handy lead.
At the other end, the young shooting duo of Tiana Metuarau and Dunn found their groove despite the best efforts of Kopua, the Pulse seamlessly taking control when leading 31-21 at the main break.
With two new goal attacks, Harley Smith (Magic) and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (Pulse) introduced for the second half, it was the visitors who were forced into some rear-guard action after weathering a spirited Magic fightback.
Strong driving play from centre Ariana Cable Dixon and the finishing efforts of Potgieter helped Magic close to within five before the Pulse unleashed with a withering and defining response.
In the engine room, Kersten was a prominent figure in a relentless Pulse onslaught, the clever Ekenasio playing a strong cameo as the visitors went on a nine-goal scoring streak to set up a decisive 49-33 lead at the last turn.