The race for the third and final play-off spot in the New Zealand conference has tightened even further after an understrength Central Pulse line-up pulled off an unexpected win over the Mainland Tactix last night.
The four-goal victory - the Pulse's first since their round one win over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic - has set up an intriguing scenario with two rounds remaining in the regular season. The two points brought the Wellington side on level pegging with the Tactix and Northern Mystics in the battle for the one remaining position in the New Zealand conference finals alongside the Steel and Magic.
Given only one place separated the two sides on the ladder heading into the clash, it would be overstating it to say last night's result was an upset, but with Pulse coming off an awful performance against the struggling Adelaide Thunderbirds last week and missing key shooter Ameliaranne Wells through illness, the advantage seemed to sit firmly with the home side.
A win last night would have boosted the Tactix into outright third position on the NZ conference ladder, giving them a clear edge in the race.
But the Canterbury side looked off the pace, with the Pulse, led by a gutsy defensive effort by captain Katrina Grant, never allowing the home side to slot into their rhythm.
The loss of Wells forced a late change to the Pulse shooting end, with Te Amo Amaru-Tibble handed a start at goal attack. There were further changes forced on the Pulse when centre Elias Scheres was helped from the court with what looked to be a serious knee injury.
Leading 32-29 at halftime, the Pulse pushed out to a seven-goal advantage in the third spell, forcing a slew of changes to the Tactix line-up.
The new line-up threatened early in the fourth quarter, closing to within two, but a crucial intercept to Chelsea Locke with five minutes to go gave the Pulse some breathing room again.