The Central Pulse wont be surrendering their ANZ Premiership title without a fight.
After a rough start to 2021, where they lost four of their first five games, the Pulse handed the Stars their first loss of the season on Sunday in Takanini, crushing them 57-44.
It was a statement victory away from home from the two-time defending champion Pulse, who revealed chinks in the Stars armour, not previously seen this season.
Heading into Sunday, the Stars had led after every quarter break in their opening five games. They had also lost just four of 20 quarters, but struggled when put under pressure by the Pulse.
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After a sluggish start to the season, defending champions find their form.
With their backs against the wall, having lost three consecutive games, the Pulse responded with their finest 60-minute performance of the season.
Fijian international Kelera Nawai was superb at goal keep for the Pulse, grabbing five rebounds and five intercepts. She got the better of Silver Ferns goal shoot Maia Wilson in the Stars shooting end, who was limited to just 23 goals from 29 attempts at 79 per cent.
Pulse wing defence Maddy Gordon looks to take in a pass against the Stars on Sunday.
The Pulse delivered a complete team effort with shooters Aliyah Dunn (35 from 39) and Te Amo Amaru-Tibble (22 from 27) outstanding as a combination, benefiting from accurate feeding from Whitney Souness and captain Claire Kersten.
Little went right for the Stars, who were outplayed and outpassioned by a desperate Pulse side, who badly needed a win to kick-start their campaign.
There was plenty of passion prior to the first centre pass with the Stars performing their team haka, Te Tira Whetu, which was composed by Wilsons mother, Karena Stephens-Wilson, with support from her daughter and team-mate Amorangi Malesala.
The Pulse responding with their waiata, Manawataki, (which translates to Pulse), composed by Tipi Wehipeihana and gifted by Te Wnanga o Raukawa.
The Stars perform their team haka, “Te Tira Whetu” prior to Sunday’s game against the Pulse.
Midway through the second quarter the Stars were dealt a blow with veteran defender Anna Harrison limping off with an ankle injury.
Harrison returned with two minutes left in the third quarter with her side in trouble, down 39-32.
Nothing went right for the Stars in the third quarter with Wilson sent to the bench, replaced by Malesala, given the dominance of the Pulse defenders.
The Pulse delivered some of their best netball of the season in the first half, matching it with the unbeaten Stars.
Nawai set the tone in the defensive end, grabbing three rebounds, and trying everything to limit Wilson’s effectiveness.
Maddy Gordon was also lively at wing defence, generating pressure outside the circle and trying to keep Stars wing attack Gina Crampton from having too much freedom.
For the first time this season, the Stars trailed at halftime (down 26-25) after a committed first 30 minutes from the Pulse, forcing their opponent into an uncharacteristic 14 first half turnovers.
With six minutes left in the third quarter, the Pulse opened up a four-goal lead, jumping out to a 35-31 advantage, putting the Stars in a position they hadnt been all season.
A 6-0 run from the Pulse blew the scoreline out to 38-31 with the Stars plagued by errors on attack.
There was no way back from there with the Pulse never giving the Stars a sniff and continuing to pile on the goals.
The Pulse will look to build on their memorable win, returning home to play the Magic at Wellingtons TSB Bank Arena next Sunday.
There will be no shortage of soul-searching for the Stars this week, who host the Tactix at Pulman Arena next Monday.
Pulse 57 (Aliyah Dunn: 35/39, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble: 22/27) Stars 44 (Maia Wilson: 23/29, Jamie Hume: 13/16, Amorangi Malesala: 8/12) 1Q: 13-14 HT: 26-25, 3Q: 42-34.
Stuff MVP points: Kelera Nawai 3, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble 2, Aliyah Dunn 1.

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