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

Netball: Pulse win tight encounter

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

This week it was the Central Pulse's turn to play catch up.

Usually they're the side who squanders a lead but this week the West Coast Fever coughed up a small advantage they had held for most of the contest in Wellington tonight before eventually losing 53-52.

The victory kept the Pulse's thin playoff hopes alive as they push towards a maiden trip to the knockout stages of the ANZ Championship.

The Pulse are hovering around the edge of the top four and finish the season with home-and-away games against the mediocre Canterbury Tactix and a trip to Invercargill to meet the Steel.

Tonight's victory for the Pulse was an improvement in the sense they finally managed to provide a cool head under pressure.

This year they've given up games where they had the advantage - often by up to seven or eight goals - before eventually losing.

But tonight was different for Robyn Broughton's lot who never panicked as they slowly eroded the Fever's lead that never got out of hand during the game.

The first quarter was evenly-matched as both sides looked to feel each other out, while the Pulse couldn't manage to find a way to draw level in the second.

Twice they were given an opportunity during the second period after they forced a turnover from the Fever but they couldn't make the most of their chances.

In the third quarter the home side found their rhythm though as they eventually managed to grind the Fever down and draw level.

Pulse goal shoot Caitlin Thwaites even threw up a successful late shot on the whistle that would have given the Pulse a one-goal advantage at the end of the third quarter but she couldn't beat the clock.

At 40-all the teams entered the fourth quarter for a shootout with the prize being two vital competition points.

Both sides are in playoff contention and the Fever played like they needed the points as much as anyone else.

The Pulse kicked off the final stanza in perfect fashion though as a 3-0 run gave them a nice 43-40 advantage and it proved to be a lead they would never give back.

The Fever didn't perish quietly though and fought back to within one goal in the late stages of the game but some clutch shooting from Thwaites and Wilkins saw them home, while a late Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit intercept was vital.

Joline Henry got through her second full game in as many weeks and although the Silver Fern is still not back to her best as she battles calf trouble, her influence on court is crucial for the Pulse who have strength in every starting position.

Veteran goal attack Donna Wilkins can still mix it with the best at 35 and shot a perfect 25 from 25 tonight as her combination with Thwaites continued to grow.

If the Pulse are to make the playoffs, they need other results to go their way during the next month but by winning every game in front of them they're holding up their end of the bargain.

Next week they travel to Christchurch to meet the Tactix before having the bye.

Central Pulse 53 (Caitlin Thwaites 28/33, Donna Wilkins 25/25)
West Coast Fever 52 (Caitlin Bassett 31/32, Catherine Cox 18/20) 1Q: 11-13, HT: 25-27, 3Q: 40-40.


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