Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Southern Steel extend lead atop NZ conference

Southern Steel star shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid. Photo / Getty
Southern Steel star shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid. Photo / Getty

Steel 67
Pulse 63

The Southern Steel extended their lead atop the New Zealand conference standings with a tight win over a determined Pulse outfit.

Having not lost any ground during their bye week, the 67-63 win gives the Steel a commanding eight-point lead over the second-placed Mystics, virtually assuring them of a semifinal spot.

The New Zealand conference has proved extremely competitive this season, with the match-ups between the Kiwi sides typically producing tight tussles. That competitiveness was no better illustrated than in tonight's clash between the top-ranked and bottom-ranked New Zealand teams.

The Pulse did not have a happy first outing against the Steel in round four, falling to a 13-goal loss. They showed a lot more resolve tonight, working hard to break down the links in the well-drilled Steel side.

Just one goal separated the two sides at each change of ends, before the Steel produced a late push in the final quarter to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

But if the Steel are to keep it that way, there's plenty of areas coach Noeline Taurua will need to address in training this week before they take on the Mystics on Sunday.

Coming off a round seven bye, the Steel were perhaps a little rusty on attack, with their through court play laboured at times. But the Pulse had also clearly done their homework on the Kiwi pacesetters. The likes of Elias Scheres and Jacinta Messer did a solid job of pushing the attack wide, not allowing the visitors the speed through the court they thrive on and therefore restricting the easy ball into super shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.

A wobbly shooting performance from goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit also didn't help the visitors' cause, particularly with the relatively new Pulse combination of Maia Wilson and Ameliaranne Wells firing the shots in at will down the other end of the court.

After going at less than 50 per cent in the first half (6/13), Selby-Rickit found her range as the match wore on, but still finished on a disappointing 13/21.

It was with her feeding into the circle where Selby-Rickit proved her worth however, producing some memorable deliveries into Fowler-Reid to slice through the Pulse defensive pairing of Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka.

While Selby-Rickit's quick-fire passes proved tough to combat, Grant and Karaka did an otherwise impressive job on Fowler-Reid. Karaka in particular will be pleased with her return of five gains after a fairly quiet first half of the season.

- NZ Herald

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