Tonight's closely fought 53-52 battle between Wellington's Haier Pulse and Kia Magic in the ANZ netball competition showed the Pulse have the precision and ball skills to play very fine netball when it counts.
Like the earlier fixture between the Adelaide Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds in Queensland, Australia, just one goal separated the teams at the final whistle. At times during the first half it seemed as though the Pulse effort was flagging. But with plenty of determination - not to mention a noisy crowd willing them on - they managed to be within a goal of the Magic at half time.
The Pulse's Camilla Lees played a blinder at centre, confident in getting and passing ball for her side. Liana Leota is always a vital connection for the Pulse, reigniting and reapproaching when the ball gets bogged down. She runs twice as far as many players around her, and has a remarkable jump and gift at strategic ball placement. At goal, Caitlin Thwaites was also impressive, although on a couple of occasions she hesitated to take the shot. With capable Magic defenders like Leana de Bruin and Casey Kopua ready to pounce (and sometimes push), this was perhaps understandable. However, Thwaites and Donna Wilkins provide formidable shooting quality in the circle, against a very physical opposition. Well done! Katrina Grant at the other end, and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit were the end defensive effort of a concerted team defence. As Joline Henry was absent the role of wing defence was taken capably by Victoria Smith in the first half, and Daya Wiffen in the second. Their work helped to cement a very creditable team effort by the Pulse. While the match was not error-free, it was a considerable improvement on the previous week's. It was a deserved win for the Pulse, and the loyal Pulse fans around me loved it!
For the Magic, Ellen Halpenny improves every week, and is unafraid to take shots at goal from far out. When it was too difficult to get the ball into Irene van Dyk this occurred frequently. Halpenny is a blooming talent in the Magic side. Both sides played great netball up and down the court, but the best team won on the day. Go the Pulse!