Perfect regular season for Steel

Steel goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid lines up a shot at goal while being defended by Pulse goal...
Steel goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid lines up a shot at goal while being defended by Pulse goal defence Phoenix Karaka during their ANZ Premiership match in Invercargill last night. PHOTO: DIANNE MANSON/MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
One more to go.

That is the reality of the Southern Steel's 64-51 win over the Central Pulse in Invercargill last night.

It now has chance to be crowned unbeaten champion in next week's ANZ Premiership final.

Claiming a double-digit win over a potential opponent in that final no doubt gives it a psychological edge.

But having already secured top spot on the table, keeping its unbeaten streak alive was the biggest outcome of this game.

It completes a dominant regular season in which the Steel strung together 15 consecutive wins, something which pleased coach Reinga Bloxham.

``I'm really happy with [the 15 wins],'' she said.

``I think it's quite a nice way to end that regular season and with everything that's happened in the last week or so, it's just topped it off.

``It's just completed everything and sets us up quite nicely going into the finals, so absolutely chuffed that we've won those 15 round-robin games.''

It was the first half in which the Steel did the damage last night. A nine-goal lead at halftime was too much for the Pulse to overhaul.

Despite a fightback in the third quarter, the margin never got closer than seven.

The Steel withstood that, then extended the gap again in the fourth quarter.

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid used her size well, providing a tall target against the Pulse defence.

That allowed the Steel to regularly lob the ball into her, giving it easy feeds and the ability to rack up goals quickly.

It was impressive against the premiership's best defensive team.

However, it was the periods when the Steel defence was able to turn ball over regularly that it was able to exert dominance.

Jane Watson and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit were again outstanding as a duo, managing several intercepts and deflections.

The team had gone into the game looking to make sure it still had its connections with the return of Shannon Francois and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.

Both players came out of it well and Bloxham was happy with the performance.

``[I am] really pleased with that [performance].

``That was quite a tough game and the girls sort of rallied together again. It was good to get everyone out on the court tonight, so really happy.''

The Steel took the early lead and, at 6-1, threatened to put its foot down just five minutes in.

However, the Pulse showed some fight and pulled it back to 8-6, before the Steel went on another quick scoring run.

That took it to 15-8 at one point, before a strong finish to the quarter allowed the Pulse get back to 17-13 at the break.

The Pulse held that margin through the first half of the second quarter, before the Steel began to pull away again.

Its defence stepped up, a Watson intercept in particular catching the eye, as it deprived the Pulse of shots and turned that into goals at the other end.

That resulted in the score reaching 31-21, before the Pulse stemmed the flow to go to halftime at 34-25.

The game evened up in the third quarter, each team scoring 15 goals.

Both teams made changes and the Steel got Dani Gray and Olivia Bates on court for their second matches for the side.

Jennifer O'Connell and Sophie Erwood both got on the court in the fourth quarter, as the Steel pulled away to extend its margin.

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