The Northern Mystics have handed the Central Pulse their first loss in over a year, giving their ANZ Premiership final hopes a huge boost.
They upset the defending champions 44-42 in front of a 2100-strong crowd at Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena on Sunday, producing a powerful final quarter performance, where they came from five goals down at three-quarter time.
The Mystics snapped the Pulse 11-game winning run dating back to last season. Their last loss was in the final round of last season, also against the Mystics, on May 20, 2019.
Despite the loss, the Pulse are still in control to feature in the August 23 one versus two straight final in Invercargill, but this result shows they can be beaten.
* Silver Ferns expected to stay loyal in 2020-21 national squad
* ANZ Premiership: Tactix gain crucial win over Stars in Christchurch return
* ANZ Premiership: Mainland Tactix overcome the obstacles to play their only home game
It was a critical result for the Mystics, who are in a head-to-head battle with the Mainland Tactix for second spot and the other final berth.
The Mystics will take a stack of confidence from this away victory, outscoring the Pulse 14-7 over the final 12 minutes.
They had been sluggish in their previous two outings against the Steel and Magic, but stepped up with their season on the line.
Teenage goal shoot Grace Nweke was a standout again for the Mystics, landing 38 from 44 for the game, including 12/13 in the final term.
Circle defenders Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick picked up some crucial turnovers in the final quarter to help the Mystics cut into the Pulse lead and eventually overtake them.
The Mystics will be desperate to build on this impressive result and need to keep winning in their double-header against the Steel and Tactix next weekend. Sunday’s clash with the Tactix in Auckland could decide second place and who advances to the final.
It was anyone’s game in the early stages of the final quarter with a 5-1 run from the Mystics trimming the Pulse lead to 36-35 with nine minutes left.
With five minutes remaining, it was level at 39-39 with the Mystics frustrating the Pulse in the pressure moments and forcing them into uncharacteristic mistakes.
The Mystics took the lead for the first time since the first quarter, pushing ahead 41-40 with three to go.
A critical rebound and goal from Nweke increased their lead to two with a late goal from Saviour Tui proving the dagger blow, putting them up three (44-41).
The Pulse were back playing in front of their home fans with all teams playing at the centralised Auckland Netball Centre over the past six rounds, following the resumption of the competition.
At halftime, the Mystics were right in the fight, trailing 23-20 against the competition leaders.
The Pulse threatened to break away, scoring three unanswered goals to establish a 28-23 edge early in the third term. The Mystics were always within striking distance though, replying with three straight goals of their own.
The Mystics closed to within three (33-30) late in the third quarter, but the Pulse absorbed the pressure to head into the final term 35-30 in front.
The final quarter was all the Mystics, stepping up with the game on the line, to bank a memorable victory.
Meanwhile, in Sunday’s earlier game, the Tactix made it four straight victories, keeping alive their hopes of a first final appearance in team history.
They held off a stern challenge from the bottom placed Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, prevailing 44-35 at Hamilton’s Claudelands Arena.
The Magic recovered from a poor first quarter, belying their bottom of the table status and pushed the high-flying Tactix most of the game. A strong defensive effort in the final term, where they limited the Magic to just three goals, scoring 10 themselves, swung the result the Tactix way.
The Magic back up against the Steel at Claudelands on Monday night in a clash of the premiership’s bottom two sides.
AT A GLANCE:
Mystics 44 (Grace Nweke: 38/44, Filda Vui: 2/2, Saviour Tui: 4/4) Pulse 42 (Aliyah Dunn: 21/23, Ameliaranne Ekenasio: 20/28, Tiana Metuarau: 1/2) 1Q: 8-10, HT: 20-23, 3Q: 30-35.
Tactix 44 (Ellie Bird: 26/30, Te Paea Selby-Rickit: 16/18, Jess Prosser: 2/2) Magic 35 (Kelsey McPhee: 17/22, Abigail Latu-Meafou: 18/22) 1Q: 15-10, HT: 25-20, 3Q: 34-32.
Points (games played): Pulse 41 (11), Tactix 32 (12), Mystics 29 (11), Stars 21 (12), Steel 14 (11), Magic 10 (11).