Wily campaigner Robyn Broughton and her new outfit, the Central Pulse, created a little history in Napier last night, upsetting the Southern Steel for the first time.
The Steel had established themselves as giant-killers in this year's transtasman netball league, toppling a star-studded Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic outfit in their season opener earlier in the week.
But if anyone was equipped to turn the tables on the upstarts, it was foundation Steel coach Broughton, who had headed north to Wellington feeling distinctly unwanted by the southern franchise. Under her guidance, the traditional easybeats had their campaign off to an encouraging, albeit losing start against the Northern Mystics in a performance that hinted they could be a danger if taken lightly. So it proved.
The Pulse started better than their rivals, forcing a turnover on the opening possession and scoring the first two goals of the contest. Neither team took particularly good care of the ball through the opening exchanges but the Central defenders were already limiting the flow through to veteran Steel shooters Donna Wilkins and Jodi Brown.
By the end of the first quarter, the home side were still 12-10 up and Southern co-coaches Natalie Avellino and Janine Southby responded by tweaking the midcourt, bringing Phillipa Finch into centre. The change had disastrous consequences, as the Pulse added to their advantage with the first three goals after the re-start.
Another four-goal run later in the period saw the lead grow to eight, but as the clock ticked down to halftime, the Steel mounted a run of their own and trailed just 20-25 at the break.
Rival shooters Wilkins and Caitlin Thwaites had virtually cancelled each other out, missing just once each, but Thwaites' sidekick Paula Griffin was seeing twice as many opportunities than counterpart Brown, converting 12/16 from the goal attack slot.
Significantly, the Wellington-based outfit had snatched six clean intercepts.
When the teams came back out on court, Broughton had moved centre Camilla Lees to wing attack, replacing her with Daya Wiffen, while the Steel introduced Storm Purvis at goal keep.
But perhaps the key change saw Wilkins and Brown swap bibs in the shooting circle - and they immediately cut the deficit to three goals. A three-goal run further reduced the gap to two, but the Pulse, with wing defence Joline Henry ruling the open court, responded with a 6-1 burst that carried them seven clear and 39-33 ahead with a quarter to play.
As the game headed down the home stretch Wilkins was, surprisingly, the one to falter. After missing just once to that point, she had two consecutive failures to gift Central momentum and a buffer that quickly hit double figures.
The Steel closed with a 7-2 rush to restore some respectability.
Thwaites impressed with 90 per cent (29/32) of her attempts, while Katrina Grant's three interceptions from goal keep were the best defensive effort.