Steel defend title after remarkable come-from-behind win against Pulse

The Southern Steel have defended their national netball premiership title in dramatic fashion.

Behind by six goals with just four minutes to play, the Steel have stormed back to score the last seven goals of the match and snatch a 54-53 victory in Sunday's final in Palmerston North.

The result meant the Southern franchise sent retiring captain Wendy Frew out with back-to-back championships, while the Pulse missed out on a maiden title.

It was also a repeat of the result of last year's final, where the Steel defeated the Pulse in Invercargill.

For almost the entire match, it looked as though that wouldn't be the case.

The Pulse, top qualifiers after round-robin play, were up by as many as 11 goals during the early stages of the second quarter.

But, seemingly determined to not say good-bye to long-time skipper Frew on a losing note, the Steel refused to stop fighting.

They closed the gap to six (30-24) at halftime and by three-quartertime the Pulse's lead was down to just four (42-28).

The fourth quarter was a tense, torrid affair, the Central outfit starting well before their Southern rivals showed they still weren't prepared to wave the white flag.

And just when it looked like the Pulse had finally shaken off the Steel's challenge, up 53-47 with four minutes on the clock, the thrilling late comeback began.

The inspired Steel closed within one inside the final two minutes and after levelling the scores with just a minute to play, netted what was the winning goal with only 25 seconds remaining.

The Pulse had an opportunity to force extra-time as the clock counted down, but Ameliaranne Ekenasio's mid-range shot did not go down, signalling wild celebrations from the Steel players, coaches and management.

Southern Steel 54 Central Pulse 53. Q1: 10-16. Q2: 24-30. Q3: 38-42. 


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Katrina Grant accepts there's a possibility she'll lose Silver Ferns captaincy

Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant says she's accepted the possibility of losing the national captaincy ahead of the first squad naming since the disastrous Commonwealth Games campaign in April. 

While preparing for the domestic premiership final with the Central Pulse, Grant has said she'd be "fine" if she wasn't named in the next squad and would understand if selectors felt there was a better person to lead the team.

But her Pulse coach, and current Silver Ferns assistant Yvette McCausland-Durie thinks the defender still has plenty to offer. 

"On her return from the Commonwealth Games she's just put her foot down, kept really focused and made a significant difference to this team," McCausland-Durie told 1 NEWS.

"I know she's a strong leader, there's lots of strong leaders within this group. But she continues to add value to our programme and I'm sure she would at the Silver Fern level."

The Ferns' skipper couldn't hide her upset at today's defeat. Source: TVNZ | Commonwealth Games

Former Ferns skipper Casey Kopua re-iterated yesterday she is considering making herself available for the national side again. 

The Silver Ferns squad for September's Quad Series will be named next Tuesday. 

Grant is ‘fine’ if selectors go another direction for the first squad since the disastrous Commonwealth Games campaign. Source: 1 NEWS

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A failed Comm Games, a new position and two years on the bench: Pulse star uses every obstacle to learn

It hasn't been the smoothest road for Central Pulse mid-courter Claire Kersten.

After breaking into the New Zealand under 21s, Kersten had to wait until she was 24 before earning her first professional contract with the Pulse back in 2013, only to then spend the best part of the next two seasons on the bench.

But fast forward to 2018, and Kersten has proven to be an invaluable member of the starting seven.

"It's been a bit of a struggle. Very much up and down," she said.

"At times you sort of question whether it's going to work out, but the last couple of years have been amazing and have made those low points worthwhile."

Sunday's grand final will mark quite a transformation for Kersten, who switched from wing defence to centre this year.

"I've come from a circle 'D' background but obviously height's not on my side.

The feeding aspect has been a big aspect for me - that's been the biggest challenge this year."

Her form saw her called up to the Silver Ferns' Commonwealth Games squad and while the campaign itself may have been a disaster, the centre says she benefited from it.

"There were some really tough times over there but there were some great moments and I learned a lot from that experience from a netball point of view, but also personally."

Kersten and the Pulse play the winner of tonight’s semi-final between the Tactix and Steel in Palmerston North on Sunday at 4:15pm.


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