Pulse pip Mystics in Super Sunday thriller
The Central Pulse held their nerve to close out Super Sunday with a riveting 56-55 win over the SKYCITY Mystics in the last match of the ANZ Premiership opener in Hamilton.
Despite the best efforts of seasoned Mystics defender Anna Harrison late in the piece, the Pulse put a tentative first half behind them to produce a compelling second half to take the points in a riveting contest.
Coming on late in the second quarter, teenaged shooting sensation Tiana Metuarau earned her stripes with a telling contribution in her first outing at this level to steady the Pulse attacking line with accurate finishing and composure.
There was nothing to separate the teams in a tight, intense and close first half with neither side able to exert any sense of authority.
The Mystics made the most of a tentative Pulse start, midcourter Elisapeta Toeava finding good connection with shooter Bailey Mes to give her team the early upper hand.
That was well-supported by the Mystics defensive line, who tested their opponents with close-quarter marking before the Pulse finally found their groove.
In her first outing since making a new home with the Pulse, former Mystics stalwart Cathrine Tuivaiti took time to find her feet before finding her signature moves on the baseline and getting her team back in the contest.
On the back of the accuracy and superior play of Mes, it was the Mystics who took a narrow 15-14 lead into the first break.
The dour nature of the contest continued on the resumption, the greater accuracy and execution of the Mystics pushing them out to a five-goal advantage.
In a repeat of the first quarter, the Pulse came charging back. Midcourt import Sara Bayman played a strong hand both defensively and with her feeds into the circle while the injection of Metuarau added impetus to the team’s shooting circle.
The league’s youngest player calmly slotted her first shot to give the Pulse the lead for the first time.
But it was the Mystics who made the most of a scrappy second stanza to reclaim the lead when heading into the main break with a slim 29-27 advantage.
Both sets of defences played prominent roles, the switch of positions by defensive duo Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka paying particular dividends for the Pulse who gained a clutch of turnover ball to again snatch the lead in the third quarter.
Not to be outdone, The Mystics refused to take a backward step as an old-fashioned arm wrestle ensued. The experience of Tuivaiti shone through as she guided her young charge Metuarau expertly while Mes and Maria Tutaia kept popping the goals in.
An exciting run to the line was ensured with the scores locked up at 43 goals apiece at three-quarter time.