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Pulse hold off Stars in netball Premiership

In charge for three quarters of the match, the Central Pulse were forced to defuse a determined Northern Stars fightback before clinching a 58-51 win to open their 2024 ANZ Premiership campaign in Auckland on Sunday.

Leading by as many as 10 in the first half, the Pulse were put under pressure in the third quarter after the Stars closed the gap to four with 15 minutes to play.

The home side flew out of the blocks in the final stanza, closing to within one before the Pulse took charge, five unanswered goals providing the impetus to nail a first-up win.

With multiple changes to their team this year, the Stars showed plenty of promise, particularly at the defence end, but were unable to extend their momentum of the third quarter, being rattled into error by a fast-finishing Pulse.

The Stars opted to start with their proven front three of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (wing attack) alongside the shooting combination of Amorangi Malesala (goal attack) and captain Maia Wilson.

With Tiana Metuarau ruled out with a foot injury, Pulse training partner and Central Manawa team member Kiana Pelasio got the call-up to fill the goal attack spot and the shooting duties with Amelia Walmsley.

Both teams made up-tempo starts, mixed with rushes of blood as first game excitement took hold at times. The link between Reuelu-Buchanan and Wilson paid early dividends as the Stars made the front-running.

Central Pulse ANZ Premiership netball
The Central Pulse have opened their ANZ Premiership campaign with a win. PHOTO: NETBALL NZ

Hitting their straps with slick and speedy through-court transition, the Pulse found their touch with midcourter Maddy Gordon providing a flurry of pin-point passes to Walmsley under the hoop.

The Stars introduced a familiar face in former captain Gina Crampton, a temporary replacement player for the team, to help with the impetus on attack.

Not helped by home team wing defence Khanye-Lii Munro-Nonoa being suspended for the final two minutes of the quarter, the Pulse stretched out to a 16-12 lead at the first break.

Former Melbourne Vixen player Rahni Samson was introduced to goal shoot on the resumption with Wilson moving out to goal attack but it was the Pulse who continued to extend their lead.

Pulse defenders Parris Mason and Kelly Jackson (nee Jury) did a fine job in restricting the Stars shooters while helping their team push out to a 10-goal advantage.

Khiarna Williams took over from Pelasio late in the piece, the talented young shooter having her first game back at the elite level since 2021 after having her comeback curtailed by injury.

The Stars introduced newcomer Lily Tokaduadua at goalkeeper, the rangy young defender having immediate impact with two deflections, to help stem the Pulse’s scoring options. But it was the visitors who took a handy 32-24 lead into the main break.

Restored to their original shooting combination of Malesala and Wilson, in tandem with the defensive efforts of the athletic Kate Burley and her teenaged partner Tokaduadua, the Stars staged a stirring fightback during the third stanza.

Showing more urgency and finesse on attack, the Stars chipped away at the deficit while Burley and Tokaduadua provided some tense moments for the Pulse shooters who, under sustained pressure, went off the boil.

Winning the quarter by four brought the home side right back into the contest while setting up an exciting finish with the Pulse holding a narrow 41-37 lead at the last turn.

Central Pulse 58 (Amelia Walmsley 45/58, Kiana Pelasio 12/16, Khiarna Williams 1/1) Northern Stars 51 (Maia Wilson 34/38, Amorangi Malesala 10/14, Rahni Samason 7/11). 1Q: 16-12, HT: 32-24, 3Q: 41-35


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