London Pulse faced a tough challenge in Round 9 against two-time champions Wasps Netball, with Wasps taking the win 49-37 at the final whistle. Pulse were able to try out a variety of attacking and defensive combinations on this occasion and the team relished the challenge of coming up against such an experienced and structured franchise.
The game started with good intensity from both sides, and Hali Adio set the tone for the Pulse defence with an early intercept on the first feed of the game. Wasps were patient with ball in hand and took the lead by 3, but the Pulse defence were not making things easy for them. As the opening few minutes played out Wasps were piling on the pressure in defence and extended their lead, credit to the efforts of livewire Amy Flanagan in centre. As the score pushed out to 8-1, it was clear that Wasps had done their homework on notorious ball-winner Funmi Fadoju and were working hard to nullify her impact on the game. Adio was matching up well against the experienced Roses shooter Rachel Dunn, using her footwork to confuse the space and force extra passes in and out of the circle. Wasps extended their lead further to 12 – 4 and Pulse were having difficulty getting the ball into their attacking third, but a steal from Zara Everitt gave Pulse a run of three goals in the final few minutes of the quarter. Wasps went into the first break with a six-goal advantage, but the defensive pressure from Pulse was keeping them in the game.
Lefébre Rademan slotted into goal attack in the second quarter, injecting her speed and baseline drives into the Pulse frontline. The scoreline was now 10 – 15 to Wasps and both teams wrestled to gain the upper hand. The combination between Fran Williams and Josie Huckle was gelling nicely and Williams, in particular, was causing a lot of problems for Pulse in the attacking circle. As all the players began to suss out their opposition the intercepts started to mount up, with Everitt stealing a loose ball on the centre pass and minutes later Flanagan picking up another win for her team. Despite the hard work and tenacity from the Pulse defence, we were struggling to convert our turnover ball and Wasps managed to sneak ahead by 10 goals. Another push from the experienced side in the later stages of the quarter saw them take a 30 – 17 lead into the half time break. Wasps had just two unforced errors after two quarters of netball and were shooting at 97%, giving Pulse very few opportunities to try and claw back the deficit.
The second half saw numerous lineup changes from both sides, with Gezelle Allison replacing Katie Harris at goal attack for Wasps and Pulse altering our combinations in all areas of the court. Only Adio and Rademan remained in their positions from the second to the third quarter, and we saw experienced Lindsay Keable and Michelle Drayne take to the court. Wasps continued to grind out the game and keep the scoreboard pushing on, extending their lead to 32 – 18 credit to Allison’s long-range shooting. The new Pulse attacking combination of Olivia Tchine and Rademan were finding each other well and demonstrating the depth and variety of players within the Pulse attacking unit. Mid-way through the quarter, the Pulse defensive end reignited and a series of turnovers through Drayne and Adio allowed us to draw level in the quarter score. The Pulse attack were starting to find confidence against the fearsome Wasps defence, but the scoreline advantage was still with the Midlands side and they led 39 – 26 at the final break.
Neither team was backing down in the fourth quarter, with Pulse continuing to grind it out and piling on the pressure in defence. Wasps were relentless at the post with Allison and Dunn combining well and shooting accurately. The London side found some fluidity in attack and were leading the quarter by two with six minutes left to play. Wasps remained confident and composed, credit to their structures and experience as a team, but Pulse were challenging every ball and our tenacity paid off in the latter part of the game. It was goal for goal in the final few minutes and Pulse were able to find Tchine under the post with ease in order to win the final quarter 11-10. Some huge positives for both sides to take away from this game, and we will look ahead to our matchup with Severn Stars on Monday.
Player of the match went to Amy Flanagan who was a crucial link for Wasps during this game, providing both defensive intensity and quick vision into her shooters. Overall Wasps started very strong and were able to take control of the scoreline from the first quarter, and despite the best efforts of Pulse they were not able to make up for this early deficit. However Pulse demonstrated by winning the second half that we are building and developing our game week on week and can take some huge positives away from this performance.