Queensland Firebirds enjoyed a 52-46 victory over the Central Pulse at Te Rauparaha Arena last night in a thrilling tussle.
The Pulse managed to keep within a couple of goals against the Firebirds until three-quarter time. But their shooters failed to match the 16 goals put in by Firebirds' Romelda Aiken and Amorette Wild in the final quarter. Pulse coach Robyn Broughton stuck with her starting seven throughout and centre courters Leana Leota and Elias Shadrock did not disappoint with aerial dynamism and slick passing. I heard the game being described as "Bullrush" and certainly both of these centre courters had to put up with Firebirds pretty much in their face. Firebirds' wing defence Gabi Simpson was sinbinned for three goals' duration for repeated deliberate contact offences in the third quarter.
Jolene Henry was always dangerous at wing defence but the force and velocity of the ball thrown at her colleagues on a few occasions meant it went out and possession was squandered. Katrina Grant began brilliantly by intercepting the Firebirds' first centre pass and remained a defensive force to reckon with. Ama Agbeze starting for the injured Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit did some outstanding defence work on the very tall 1.96m Romelda Aiken. Aiken though was by far the most prolific of the Firebirds' shooters landing 37 from 45 shots and it was difficult to do anything about the bolt shots delivered straight to her.
Whitney Sounness was not used but could have been used to spell Shadrock or Leota. Perhaps inserting impact players for a spell or two might have given the Firebirds something to think about and adjust to. Using the same seven gives the future opposition lots of information and makes the Pulse strategy predictable. However, undoubtedly the Firebirds are one of the toughest Australian sides so the decision to use the same seven was probably made with that in mind.
Kim Ravaillion and Verity Simmonds at centre court for the Firebirds played with flair. Simmonds fell on, and injured her wrist just before full time when she collided with Jolene Henry and appeared to be in considerable pain. Pulse redoubled their efforts and managed to add to their score but it was too late and the Firebirds coasted to a comfortable win.