Last night's Pulse v Adelaide Thunderbirds game took things to the very brink, and not just the scoreline 45-44 victory to the Thunderbirds.
The game was fast, physical and thrilling despite brilliant defence from both sides. Pulse newcomer Elias Shadrock coped amazingly well with the speed and physicality of the game. Less fortunate was Irene van Dyk whose opposition in Rebecca Bulley and Kate Shimmin rode, bumped and restricted her and Donna Wilkins. It was not a case of a holding goal shoot but holding defenders keeping shooters at bay. Although penalised sometimes, Shimmin continued to cannon into van Dyk and took her body space. Shimmin's intercepts though were stunning and skilful.
Renee Hallinan, Leigh Waddington and Andrea Gilmore for the Thunderbirds' centre court were deft and fast, and the mighty Carla Borrego a real scoring machine capably assisted by Erin Bell.
The Pulse's Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit achieved some clever intercepts, especially considering the difficulties of covering a really tall holding shooter like Borrego, and Bell who has the ability to shoot from distance. Wilkins and Jolene Henry fronted up to the aggression meted out and gave as good as they got, and Camilla Lees tentative at first, was a capable wing attack. Surprisingly experienced Pulse players started out with early unforced errors, when they could have consolidated leads. Van Dyk was unlucky that her goal in the last 70 seconds was not counted as the timing seemed marginal, but more precision and certainty on attack is something the Pulse must work on.
The Pulse'e early tactic of having van Dyk out of the circle and Wilkins within, worked well at first in keeping the Thunderbirds guessing (along probably with many of the crowd at Te Rauparaha).
The Pulse has come a long way, but they need to prove their mettle to themselves as much as anyone.
But did this game represent another step towards a holding, blocking game. Is that the way netball's going?