MG MYSTICS SEAL THRILLING WIN OVER PULSE
A fast-finishing MG Mystics defused a gallant challenge from Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse when they closed out a hard-fought 62-61 win to open Round 3 in Auckland on Sunday.
With the Pulse holding a handy five-goal lead with seven minutes to go, the Mystics’ senior players took charge, a six-goal scoring burst levelling the scores and handing the pressure back on to the visitors.
In their first home game of the season, the Mystics faced a concerted 60-minute challenge from the team from the Capital, making multiple changes throughout in a bid to crack their opponents.
Meeting for the second time in eight days, the Pulse missed out on a bonus point first time around when losing by six but pocketed the extras in the re-match.
That will be of little consolation on the back of a determined defensive effort and strong conversion rate from the Pulse, the smarts of captain Sulu Fitzpatrick, Peta Toeava, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and shooting of Grace Nweke getting the Mystics across the line by the narrowest of margins.
With no Phoenix Karaka for this match after suffering a head knock in the previous round, Tayla Earle slipped into wing defence for the Mystics while the Pulse retained their starting seven of the previous two matches.
The Mystics faced plenty of pressure from the Pulse in the opening exchanges. With the ball finding its way comfortably into respective shooters Nweke and Aliyah Dunn, an intriguing arm wrestle developed from the get-go.
The Mystics held their composure, Toeava, in her trademark fashion, showing her skillset with some quality feeds into her tall shooter as the home side ground their way into the lead. Courtesy of five straight goals, the quality of attacking play from both teams was in evidence when the Mystics ended a high-scoring first quarter with a 20-17 lead.
There were ominous signs for the Pulse when the Mystics jumped out to a five-goal advantage soon after the restart. The Toeava-Nweke connection remained a feature while in-circle defenders Sokolich-Beatson and Fitzpatrick made life more difficult for the Pulse shooters.
However, the Pulse defensive resolve remained at the highest levels of intensity, co-captain Kelly Jury playing her part with three big turnovers during the quarter.
Five in a row to the visitors levelled the scores before the Pulse rode a momentum wave with patience and accuracy to once again hit the lead.
With the quarter winding down, Fa’amu Ioane made her first appearance of the season, coming on at wing defence for the home side and Tayla Earle going to centre. For the Pulse, livewire little midcourter Ainsleyana Puleiata took over from Erikana Pedersen at centre as the Pulse hit the main break with their noses in front when leading 33-30.
With Filda Vui replacing Monica Falkner under the Mystics hoop, and the Pulse reverting to their starting seven, the third quarter produced all the razzle dazzle of a riveting spectacle. A chaotic start showed the willingness of both sides during a ragged opening.
The home side levelled up early in the piece, the Pulse holding their poise with the tall figure of Jury continuing her prominent form to keep the Mystics shooters on notice.
Dunn and Tiana Metuarau were clever and accurate in their play in the Pulse shooting circle as the visitors repelled everything the home side could muster. In an even, absorbing and willingly-contested third stanza, it was the team in yellow and black who held their mettle when taking a 48-46 lead into the last turn.