Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Pulse sign off disappointing year with loss

Central Pulse player Chelsea Locke. Photo / Alan Gibson.
Central Pulse player Chelsea Locke. Photo / Alan Gibson.

The Central Pulse have played their last ANZ Championship game.

The injury-depleted Wellington outfit signed off a disappointing year with a spirited, yet inconsistent showing against the Melbourne Vixens in Wellington tonight, suffering a 66-53 loss to the visiting side in what was the final game of the final round of the final season.

In a nice piece of sporting symmetry the two sides contested the first match of the transtasman league at the same venue.

The result confirms the final play-off spots, with the Vixens leapfrogging the West Coast Fever into third position in the Australian conference. The Vixens will meet the NSW Swifts in next week's elimination match, with the winner to go through to face the Queensland Firebirds in the Australian conference final.

On this side of the Tasman, the Magic will face off against the Mystics in Sunday's elimination final for the right to take on the Southern Steel for the New Zealand title.

The Pulse went into tonight's match with a theoretical chance of making the play-offs, but to displace the Mystics in third spot on the ladder, the Pulse needed to beat the Vixens by what would have been a competition-record margin.

The past nine seasons of the transtasman league has seen some strange happenings - after all, the Pulse received their first ever competition point courtesy of a leaky roof - but there was little hope of such a colossal upset occurring tonight.

For one, the Pulse have not been able to get within 10 goals of an Australian opposition all season. For another, with the Vixens themselves chasing a place in the Australian conference finals, the clinical Melbourne side were never going to slip up to such a degree.

The Wellington side still held out hope of finishing their season on a high following a difficult year for Tanya Dearns' side. But despite being 14 rounds into the season, the Pulse still lacked the connections and understanding on attack to really have a decent crack at the Vixens.

The talented defensive pairing of Geva Mentor and Jo Weston made life tough for young shooter Maia Wilson all night, although the 18-year-old still produced an impressive haul of 36 goals from 40 attempts.

She was outshone at the other end of the court by towering shooter Emma Ryde, who landed 52 from 56 in what was her first ANZ Championship start. Ryde received fast and efficient service from her well-drilled midcourters, as captain Madison Robinson found easy passage to the prime feeding position at the top of the circle.

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