Southern Steel books home elimination final

It was the result all Southern Steel players and fans were wanting.

A loss for the Tactix last night, to the top-of-the-table Mystics, means the Steel will now host an ANZ Premiership home elimination final in Invercargill this weekend.

According to Steel coach Reinga Bloxham, playing in the finals series on home turf is the same as having an extra player on court.

“Obviously, we want to be here,” she said after the Steel did its bit by beating the Pulse 59-57 on Saturday.

“This crowd is amazing. They lift us when we need lifted — they get right in behind us.”

The home-game decision hinged on two factors — a Tactix loss yesterday, but also a Steel win on Saturday.

The southerners did not disappoint. With more than 3000 supporters cheering on at Stadium Southland, the Steel was able to deliver a narrow win over the Pulse.

In the first quarter, when it took the Pulse eight or nine passes to get ball into their shooters, the Steel was able to get quicker ball into the circle. Pulse errors in its goal third proved costly, the first quarter finishing 17-14 in favour of the Steel.

The merits of a centre who is a strong defender can never be underestimated and Kate Heffernan showed that in bucketfuls — even when it seemed like the ball was all but in the circle.

Pulse centre Maddy Gordon, who started the game as wing defender, was also relentless in her defence of Shannon Saunders. Her belligerence, while causing Saunders much frustration, was not enough to slow the experienced player down.

When the Steel used the speed of the ball, it was able to outwit the Pulse’s man-on-man defence with some beautifully timed feeding into the circle.

The third quarter was the only one the Steel lost. The Pulse won it 15-14, and came back on in the fourth quarter ready to fight for the win.

An intercept by Pulse goal keep Kelly Jury led to a goal that levelled the scores 47-47.

However, the Steel was not ready to let the Pulse’s attack go unanswered, and with some beautiful movement in the goal circle, some slick ball stolen from the Pulse by Steel defender Te Huinga Selby-Rickett, and an exuberant crowd, the Steel dominated the quarter.

The Steel’s seven-goal run in the middle of the final quarter just made it too hard for the Pulse to peg back the score.

Bloxham said she was pleased her team had controlled everything it could.

“We knew they had the ability to come back at us. We talked about them, about having that do-or-die attitude. They were always going to keep coming at us.

"We knew it was coming. It did come and we just kept doing our jobs, kept grinding away there, stayed in the fight, which was great and got the job done.”

The Steel will now face the Tactix at Stadium Southland on Sunday at 4.20pm.


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