A fantastic clash on Monday night between London Pulse and Leeds Rhinos concluded Round 8, with Rhinos taking a narrow win 40-38. Both teams were coming off fresh losses with lots to prove and showed no signs of tired legs despite rounding off a tough doubleheader weekend.
Rhinos took the first centre pass and Pulse were immediately hustling in defence. Youngster Ellie Rattu earned the start in centre facing up against England Roses legend Jade Clarke and they were competing from the very first whistle. The familiar lineup from Pulse settled into the game well and an intercept from superstar Funmi Fadoju put Pulse with our noses in front. The attack end were looking in early to Sigi Burger and capitalising on the hard work of defenders Hali Adio and Zara Everitt at the back. Pulse were off to an excellent start with a 5 – 1 lead early in the quarter and were able to find Burger in strong shooting position. However, Rhinos were not giving up easily and their tenacity in defence pulled the scoreline back within one. The lead changed hands several times as both teams tried to take control of the game, with Pulse putting their foot down in the latter stages of the quarter to take lead 15-9 going into the first break.
Rhinos lifted their defensive pressure coming into the second quarter and started to double mark Burger under the post. They came out of the break with a vengeance, pulling the deficit back to three, and Pulse were becoming more laboured in their transitions into attack. However our London side were patient with ball in hand and the defensive unit kept giving the team opportunities with Fadoju coming out of nowhere to put huge pressure on the Rhinos frontline. As the quarter progressed Pulse started to find their flow but Tuaine Keenan in the goal keeper position for Rhinos picked up a crucial intercept which allowed her side to go on a run of goals and narrow the gap to just two at the break. At half time Pulse were sitting on 91% shooting accuracy and seven turnovers to Rhinos’ three, but the hunger and grit from the Northern side was keeping them close in the contest.
The two sides traded turnovers at the start of the third quarter and though the Pulse defence were making things difficult it was now the turn for Rhinos to show their patience and they drew level at 22 – 22. A narrow miss under the post allowed Rhinos to surge ahead by three, but then an angry steal from Adio and Pulse managed to stay within touching distance. The physicality of Rhinos started to grind down the Pulse frontline who were caught static, and Rhinos kept us to just six goals in the third quarter, heading into the final term with a narrow three goal lead.
The edge-of-your-seat action continued in the final quarter with both teams going goal for goal in this close contest. Burger was commanding the goal circle and kept Pulse in the game with a crucial rebound. The defensive units from both teams were putting on a magnificent display with Fadoju causing chaos and Vicki Oyesola plucking balls from the air. With three minutes to go there were just three goals separating the two teams and Pulse were doing everything to find a much-needed turnover in the dying minutes. In a nail-biting finale, the Northern side were victorious, grinding out the victory with 40 goals to 38.
Player of the match went to the unstoppable Funmi Fadoju who was creating turnover after turnover for the team. Her armspan and read of the game has been turning heads all season and she thoroughly deserved this accolade. We next face Wasps Netball and Severn Stars in Round 9’s doubleheader weekend.