Steel will need to be at its best against formidable Pulse side

Kalifa McCollin
Kalifa McCollin
The Steel has a daunting challenge tonight.

It will play the best attacking and best defensive side rolled into one team — the Pulse.

To add to the demands, the Steel has not been playing vintage netball.

The former champion team posted its first win last weekend when it held on to beat the Northern Stars 49-47.

It was a much improved performance and it needed to be. The Steel lost its previous two games and the one before the nationwide lockdown for Covid-19.

The win came at a cost, though. Back-up shooter Georgia Heffernan was assisted from the court in the third quarter with a knee injury and is awaiting a scan to reveal how serious it is.

Sister Kate looked on horrified at the sight of her twin being helped off the court.

Arguably for the first time this season, the Steel attacking end found some rhythm.

Midcourters Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton were able to get the ball through to Jen O’Connell and goal attack import Kalifa McCollin.

McCollin had not shot well during the 46-42 loss to the Northern Mystics the night before, but the Trinidad and Tobago international found her range against the Stars, landing 14 from 15.

That will fill the Steel with some renewed confidence.

The Pulse, however, has had no problems at all getting the ball in the net.

The Wellington-based team has the best attacking record after three rounds. It is averaging a tournament-high 52.3 goals per match.

The quarters have been pruned by three minutes, so that is quite an achievement.

With a team shooting accuracy of 89%, the Steel will need to work hard on defence to prevent the ball getting into the hands of Aliyah Dunn (90 from 97) and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (59 from 68).

Dunn hails from Steel country. But after being overlooked for O’Connell, she made the move north to the capital in 2018 and has flourished.

Her combination with Ekenasio has been productive.

But the defensive end had been just as busy. Veteran defender Katrina Rore and Kelly Jury are a formidable combination. And so far they have kept the opposition to just 38.3 goals per match.

The defending champion remains the only unbeaten side in the tournament and has recent history on its side.

It beat the Steel 62-52 in Invercargill last season.

Overall, though, the Steel leads head to head.

It has won 18 of the 29 matches to the Pulse’s 10 wins. There has been one draw.

The match begins at 5pm.

 

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