The Central Pulse have leapt clear of the mid-table congestion in the transtasman league standings to break into the top four with a patient win over the Southern Steel in Invercargill last night.
After a mixed start to the season the Pulse finally appear to be finding some consistency, backing up last week's thrilling extra-time win over the previously unbeaten Magic with another methodical performance against the Steel.
Locked in a goal-for-goal battle until late in the third quarter, the Pulse did not allow the frustration of being unable to stop Steel shooting machine Jhaniele Fowler-Reid affect their own attacking game. Instead they stuck to their task.
Heading into the match there were five teams all locked on six points, with only goal differential separating fourth from eighth on the table. The win ensured the Pulse have a little bit of breathing space from the chase pack heading into their bye round.
One of the cornerstones to Robyn Broughton's gameplan is patience on attack. She demands clinical execution - an area where the Pulse have not consistently delivered. But with the competition's most prolific shooter down the other end of the court in Jamaican Fowler-Reid, the heat was on to match the Steel's scoring power.
They proved equal to the task, taking a deliberate approach, working the ball around the circle while waiting for spaces to open up. When they did, the result was spectacular, with the veteran shooting pairing of Irene van Dyk and Donna Wilkins combining cleverly, this despite the former Silver Fern being hampered by a leg injury. Wilkins received attention to her left leg several times, but remained on court.
It was the ageless van Dyk's 99th ANZ Championship game, though 92 of them were in Magic colours.
Where the Pulse struggled was their ability to generate turnover ball, with not enough pressure through the midcourt to stop the long bombs being delivered into Fowler-Reid, rendering Katrina Grant and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit powerless.
It made for a rather one-dimensional goal-for-goal procession for much of the match until the Steel started to unravel late in the third quarter.
A couple of clumsy passes in the shooting circle between Fowler-Reid and Brown started the decline, before a silly offensive penalty from Wendy Frew, where she lashed out at Wilkins to try and clear herself landing space, gave the Pulse the opportunity to stretch their lead to three goals heading into the final quarter.
The Pulse continued to frustrate the home side into making errors early in the fourth spell, quickly opening a six-goal advantage to prompt some desperate changes to the Steel defence. By that stage the momentum was with the Pulse.
It is momentum they must maintain after their bye.