Southern Steel have claimed the inaugural ANZ Premiership title with a comfortable 69-53 victory over the Central Pulse, in front of a sold out crowd in Invercargill.

The win was set up in a dominant first half, with Steel winning the first two quarters by eight and seven goals respectively, to take a mammoth 35-20 lead at the main break.

After a nervous start, including an uncharacteristic airball from Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, both sides traded intercepts and deflections with neither able to pull away. Fowler-Reid went on to score 20 goals before missing again.

It wasn’t until the 10-minute mark of the opening quarter that Steel were able to rid themselves of the Pulses’ shackles, scoring eight of the last 10 goals of the term. Pulse goal shooter Cat Tuivaiti was kept scoreless during that period.

Pulse captain Katrina Grant came off second best in a clash of shoulders with Fowler-Reid, which looked to slow her momentarily.

After just 16 minutes of play the margin was in double figures, as the Steel scuttled their way to a seven-goal run. By halftime the match was over, with Steel enjoying a commanding 15-goal advantage.

Movement in the Pulse goal circle from Tuivaiti and Tiana Metuarau looked pretty in motion, but were often covered by the fancy footwork from Steel defenders Jane Watson and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit. Watson collected a game-high three intercepts and five deflections in a best-on-court performance.

In contrast, the Pulse defence end of Phoenix Karaka and Grant were at times too reactive on the ball into the Steel circle. There appeared to be hesitancy as to where to try and force the ball – Steel smashed Pulse 52-33 in goal assists.

Steel converted 89% of their gains and 39% of turnover ball, compared with 60% and 19% for the Pulse, who were only able to string more than two goals in succession on two occassions.

Once more Fowler-Reid proved to be the difference, notching up 56 goals at 93% accuracy – three more goals than the Pulse could muster.

That will be music to the ears of West Coast Fever fans, with a rumour circulating that Fowler-Reid will suit up for the West Australian side in next years’ Suncorp Super Netball.

Steel’s victory broke a decade-long drought Southland, getting their hands on some elite netball silverware for the first time since Southern Sting’s 2007 National Bank Cup crown.

 

Southern Steel 69 def Central Pulse 53
(18-10, 17-10, 20-18, 14-15)

 

Southern Steel
Fowler-Reid 56/60 93%
Selby-Rickit 13/19 68%
69/79 87%

Central Pulse
Tuivaiti 26/29 90%
Metuarau 27/30 90%
53/ 59 90%

 

Twitter: @xLurch
Cover image: Steve McLeod