By Paul Prenderville 

London Pulse put their South London fans through all the emotions of a rollercoaster 49-48 win over Leeds Rhinos in a first ever NSL game at Crystal Palace Arena.

After Pulse edged the first quarter, a storming display from the visitors in the second period saw Pulse trailing by four goals.

However, Sam Bird’s half-time team talk worked wonders as Pulse took the third quarter by six goals to turn a deficit into a crucial advantage that they were able to hold on to.

“We started really well and I thought we might be in for a nice calm game and Leeds kept coming back at us and made it really hard,” Bird said.

“We were down by four at half-time and it was so noisy that Fi and I were just trying to concentrate on the tactical changes that we needed to make.

“Leeds were very physical, very on the body with our attack and we like to be fast-flowing and they stopped that, pushed us out to the margins of the court.

“In the end we just decided to try and move Geva [Mentor] around with Nichole going in to shooter and that paid off for us.” 

It’s now seven wins in a row for Pulse, who move level on points with Loughborough Lightning in 2nd who were beaten in a top of the table clash with Manchester Thunder, a result that leaves Thunder three points clear.

A nervous and edgy final quarter saw Pulse hang on for the win, a win that was all the more important to maintain a 12-point gap over fifth-placed Surrey Storm who are next up for Bird and her squad in Round 14.


Halimat Adio was returning to the starting line-up, and with her slotting back into the Goal Keeper dress, the rest of the defence were restored to more familiar positions. Alicia Scholes kept the Centre bib, with Nichola Taljaard at Wing Attack as Pulse looked to maintain the attacking verve that had yielded more than 70 goals in back-to-back games.

The early signs were good, as Pulse roared out of the traps, taking advantage of a Rhinos held ball from the opening centre pass to score the first goal of the game. A clinical attack end took full advantage of an edgy visiting team, with Berri Neil and Olivia Tchine both on target early and Scholes pulling the strings at will.

However Leeds proved dogged opponents and dug in to stem the flow. With Caroline O’Hanlon getting into the game, Joyce Mvula felt the benefit and having trailed by seven at one stage, the lead was down to one after a huge gain from Geva Mentor.

Q1: London Pulse 14-13 Leeds Rhinos

With the teams going goal for goal, Bird shuffled her pack for the first time bringing on Izzi Phillips at C allowing Scholes to move back to Wing Attack.

However it was Rhinos putting together the more coherent attacking play, a physical approach knocking Pulse out of their rhythm to hit the front for the first time.

A couple of huge turnovers from Mentor allowed Liana Leota’s team to claim their first significant lead. Amelia Hall joining Mvula in making little mistake under the post for a four-goal half-time advantage.

HT: London Pulse 25-29 Leeds Rhinos (11-16)

Staring at the prospect of just a third defeat of the season, Bird made changes to combat the Rhinos approach, reverting to the more fluid seven that had started against Severn Stars.

With Funmi Fadoju moving to Goal Keeper and Zara Everitt to Wing Defence the trademark Pulse defence was starting to find a way to quieten Mvula.

Phillips and Taljaard picked up big turnovers as Pulse drew level while at the other end, Taljaard’s return to Wing Attack gave Neil and Tchine the platform to sneak in front. The pair combined brilliantly when Neil won key ball and Tchine applied the finishing touch.

Q3: London Pulse 40-38 Leeds Rhinos (15-9)

After losing the second quarter by five, and winning the third by six, the stage was set for a dramatic conclusion and a loud Crystal Palace crowd played their part. 

But Leeds rallied again and a 4-1 run took them back in front, it prompted an immediate reaction from Bird who used Fadoju’s interception to trigger changes, turning to Jeresia McEachrane at Wing Defence and Taljaard at Goal Shooter.

McEachrane twice won crucial ball to help nudge pulse in front, and Taljaard’s movement was finally able to quell the threat of Mentor. The impact was instant as having trailed by one, Pulse now led by four but there was still time for drama.

Mvula and Hall scored with time ticking away to bring Rhinos within one and when the visitors grabbed a final rebound it looked like a draw was on the cards but the Pulse defence stood firm to hold up the visitors, just.

FT: London Pulse 49-48 Leeds Rhinos (9-10)


Starting 7s

Pulse: GK – Adio; GD – Fadoju; WD – Z Everitt; C – Scholes; WA – Taljaard; GA – Neil; GS – Tchine. Bench – D Everitt, McEachrane, Phillips, Clarke, Autumn.

Leeds Rhinos: GK – Mentor; GD – Davies; WD – M Magee; C – Howard; WA – O’Hanlon; GA – Jones; GS – Mvula. Bench – Emanuel, James, MacPhail, Veevers, Hall.


Saturday – Saracens Mavericks 57-41 Strathclyde Sirens

Saturday – Team Bath 56-63 Surrey Storm

Saturday – Loughborough Lightning 57-61 Manchester Thunder

Sunday, 4pm – Severn Stars v Cardiff Dragons – live on BBC iPlayer