The Southern Steel have completed a perfect season by crushing the Central Pulse and claiming the inaugural ANZ Premiership title tonight.
The Steel's commanding victory provided a fitting end to a dominant campaign, winning all 15 matches in the round robin and racking up a goal difference almost 10 times better than their nearest opponents.
And that supremacy continued in tonight's grand final in Invercargill, pulling eight goals in front after the first quarter and never looking back. That the Pulse were the competition's second-best team illustrated the gap between the Steel and the rest of the pack, considering they lost all four matches to the champions this season by an average margin of 19.5 goals.
Not even a serious accident involving the team bus earlier in the month was able to halt the Steel's charge in the first year of the new national league, with injured pair Wendy Frew and Te Paea Selby-Rickit returning to the lineup tonight to hand their side a big pre-match boost.
Netball Match Summary
The Steel hardly needed any extra assistance, given the ease with which they were able to steal possession from their opponents and the unstoppable form of their shooting pair at the other end.
Jamaican international Jhaniele Fowler-Reid concluded a stand-out season with a typically assertive performance, making 56 of her 60 attempts, while she enjoyed the able support of Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
It was when without the ball that the Steel steadily built their initial advantage, capitalising on some early turnovers from their opponents to take four-goal lead midway through the first quarter.
With Frew and Jane Watson particularly making their presence felt on the defensive end, the Steel were already operating at a comfortable level by the end of the quarter. While the Pulse missed only one shot in the first 15 minutes, the home side were relentless in almost doubling up their opponents' attempts.
Once the Pulse threw away their first possession in the second, the Steel lead had reached double digits and the final felt decided. And nothing about the rest of the second quarter changed that feeling, with the Steel steadily increasing their advantage to 15 goals by halftime.
With Watson and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit combining for seven deflections in the half, the Pulse simply weren't able to keep pace. Losing the third quarter by 20-18 represented something of a moral victory, with the Steel easing off the accelerator and enjoying their win.