Photo/Michael Bradley Photography
Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse increased their points advantage at the top of the table after completing a compelling 44-38 win over the Northern Mystics on Saturday.
The Pulse flew out of the blocks with a dominant opening half, overshadowing the Mystics in all facets of the much-hyped top-of-the-table clash. Backing up after playing 24 hours earlier, the Mystics came to life in the second half and turned on a spirited finish but a 14-goal deficit at halftime proved too much of a head start for the Pulse.
Seven goals in a row late in the piece when they closed to within four, gave the Mystics the sniff of a bonus point but, after a ragged patch, the Pulse regrouped in time to deny them and remain unbeaten in 2020.
There were no surprises from the Pulse, who opened with their tried and true starting seven. For the Mystics, Asher Grapes returned to make the start at goal attack after sitting out the previous match while Australian import Emily Burgess got the nod at wing defence.
The defending champions built from steady to emphatic as the opening stanza unfolded heavily in the Pulse’s favour.
Claire Kersten (centre) and Karin Burger (wing defence) were instrumental in playing crucial roles in limiting the vision and path to Mystics shooting weapon Grace Nweke, and helping the Pulse create numerous turnover opportunities.
At the other end of the court, the movement and timing of goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio took full advantage of the Pulse’s long and accurate through-court transition.
The Pulse completed a totally dominant opening, restricting the Mystics to just a handful of goals when they took a 13-5 lead into the first break.
We made a great comeback! But unfortunately we were unable to come away with a win after a tough game against @pulsenetball! 💙 Thank you to the Mystics Nation for all you support over our BIG double header weekend!! 😍 We look forward to getting back on court for another back-to-back double header next weekend!! 💪💙🏐 We take on the Steel on Sunday 26th of July - 7pm, then the Magic on Monday 27th of July - 7pm! 📸 @mbphotonz #MYSTICSNATION #BETHECROWD
With Saviour Tui coming on for Grapes on the resumption, a bright start for the Mystics evaporated just as quickly. The intense Pulse pressure sending the Mystics into their shells, putting them off stride and unable to do much right as the errors came thick and fast.
Kersten and Burger continued their menacing form while captain Katrina Rore and Maddy Gordon chipped in with intercept ball to highlight the Pulse’s dominance.
Ekenasio limped off with an ankle knock five minutes in but Tiana Metuarau slipped into goal attack seamlessly, a run of seven straight goals pushing the Pulse further ahead.
Emma Iversen took over from Peta Toeava at wing attack for the Mystics in a bid to gain some attacking traction but it had little impact as the Pulse restricted their opponents to the lowest halftime score of any team in the 48-minute games when leading 27-13 at the main break.
Seemingly no worse for wear, Ekenasio returned for the third quarter while Courtney Elliott took over from Burgess for the Mystics.
With the Pulse’s intent showing no signs of abating but allowing for the odd error to creep in, the Mystics had the better of the third of the 12-minute stanzas although it largely remained a grind.
More ball managed to find its way into Nweke’s hands, the tall target taking all the shots for the Mystics up to this stage of the game.
Despite the improved effort from the Mystics, the Pulse remained comfortably-placed when leading 38-27 at the last turn.
Official Result and Stats: Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse 44, Northern Mystics 38
Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Aliyah Dunn 24/29 (83%), Ameliaranne Ekenasio 14/19 (74%), Tiana Metuarau 6/11 (55%).
Shooting Stats - Mystics:
Grace Nweke 37/39 (95%), Saviour Tui 1/1 (100%)
MVP: Karin Burger (Pulse)