The Central Pulse have boosted their chances of making the ANZ netball Premiership play-offs with an emphatic 62-45 win over arch-rivals the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in Palmerston North.
After two disappointing performances in recent weeks, the Pulse arrived in Palmerston North earlier than usual to work hard on rebuilding their team and rewiring their connections through court. And it showed, as they racked up their highest total of the league, and restricted the Magic to their lowest score.
The Southern Steel remain unbeaten with 22 points, while the Magic and Pulse have 16 and the Mystics 14.
The Pulse's shooting duo - the experienced Cat Tuivaiti and the rookie Tiana Metuarau - shared a huge workload and shot with a sterling 88 percent accuracy. But their strength was inspired by those behind them - the intensity of the team's defence, led by Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka.
Going into the clash, the Magic had the upper-hand psychologically, having won, albeit narrowly, in their two previous engagements.
Nothing separated the two sides for most of the first quarter. A fired-up Pulse defence made the Magic play a game of patience to working the ball into Lenize Potgieter and Monica Falkner, who equally shared the shots on goal. Karaka was reading the game perfectly.
The Magic were initially feisty in their defence, and Metuarau shouldered the load under the hoop, while Tuivaiti tried to shake off the unwanted attention of Magic goal keep Kelly Jury.
Down 13-11 at the first break, the determined Pulse soon snatched the lead, helped by a stunning intercept by wing defence Claire Kersten, who gave her all to shut down Magic's frontline. Whitney Souness controlled the Pulse midcourt, finding Tuivaiti with more ease.
The Magic attempted to change their strategies on attack, by alternating goal attacks Falkner and Amorangi Malesala, who brought her outstanding feeding to the mix, and later Grace Rasmussen. But Karaka and Grant kept interrupting their flow, and the difference between the two sides expanded to five.
Having won the second quarter by seven, to go into halftime leading 27-22, the Pulse continued to power through the court in the third spell.
Tuivaiti came into her own, opening up space, eluding her defenders and shooting almost without fault. But her confidence grew through the intensity of work being done at the other end of the court. Jury was swapped out for Alex MacLeod-Smith to try to quell Tuivaiti's dominance, but there was little it seemed that anyone could do.
With the third quarter score 46-33 in the Pulse's favour, the Magic continued to try different combinations to get back into the game. But there was little that could be done to stop the storming Pulse, determined to turn the tables on their own form.
Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Tuivaiti: 31/33 @ 94%
Metuarau: 31/36 @ 86%
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Potgieter: 34/37 @ 92%
Falkner: 6/7 @ 86%
Malesala: 3/4 @ 75%
Rasmussen: 2/2 @ 100%
MVP: Whitney Souness (Pulse)