Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Netball: Vixens hold the aces

Geva Mentor of the Vixens. Photo / Getty Images
Geva Mentor of the Vixens. Photo / Getty Images

Starting slowly always puts you on the back foot and the Central Pulse left themselves with too much of a mountain to climb as they were beaten 49-41 by the Melbourne Vixens in Porirua tonight.

The home side were down by as many as seven goals midway through the first quarter against the aggressive Vixens, who flew out of the blocks with plenty of energy.

The Pulse then found themselves down by 10 goals in the second quarter and despite threatening a comeback at various stages of the third and fourth quarters, there was just too much work to do.

A nasty knee injury to Katarina Cooper also didn't help proceedings for the home side as she left the court in agony in the first quarter and was replaced at wing attack by Ngarama Milner-Olsen.

Pulse skipper Katrina Grant said her side's inability to play with a high level of intensity from the opening whistle was their biggest issue.

"We've been doing it for the last three or four weeks and the first quarter is just shocking and we paid for it,'' she said.

"I think the girls showed a lot of heart and a lot of fight, we went down and we kept coming back and we kept coming back and that's really pleasing.

"It was a really tough night, actually. It felt like the game was a lot closer than that unfortunately but our start was shocking and we paid for it in the end.

"I just think they came out fighting more than we did. We lacked a lot of intensity and couldn't get on top of them and they were just the better side in that first 15.''

Despite coming off a bye and having little to play for during their final two games due to being out of contention for the post-season, Grant said her side didn't lack motivation to get up for the game.

"Not at all. It was our last home game and we wanted to put on a show for out home crowd and I thought it was actually a good spectator game because it felt like it was a bit rugged and bodies were on the line. We did give it our all.''

Pulse coach Robyn Broughton elected to move Joline Henry out of centre and back to her usual position of wing defence in a bid to combat the dynamic Madison Browne.

During the past few weeks the Pulse had looked a different side with Henry at centre and Millie Lees at wing attack, but when Henry moved back to wing defence and Lees to centre they failed to provide enough ball to their shooters.

Grant doubted the reshuffle of the mid-court was the difference in the game.

``It was pretty hard to say, there was a change in wing attack and wing D so they all just swapped around so it does bring a different dynamic but I think Millie can hold her own in centre and I don't think that was the reason for it.''

The victory pushed the Vixens to the top of the ANZ Championship ladder with one round to go in the regular season and they will meet the Southern Steel in Invercargill next weekend to round out their campaign.

The Pulse will travel to Perth to meet the West Coast Fever on Sunday to end their season.

Melbourne Vixens 49 (Karyn Howarth 37/42, Tegan Caldwell 12/14) Central Pulse 41 (Caitlin Thwaites 29/35, Paula Griffin 12/19) 1Q: 18-8, HT: 28-22, 3Q: 38-31

- APNZ

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