VNSL Round 19: London Pulse 42 Severn Stars 40

London Pulse earned their second consecutive win with a nail-biting two goal victory over Severn Stars in Round 19. Despite a fiery and competitive contest from Stars, who were hunting for a scalp after two tough games in Round 17/18, the young and tenacious Pulse side kept them at bay in a thrilling encounter which kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.

Severn Stars were without their captain Liana Leota in the midcourt, but the team were galvanised in her absence and came into the game with determination and focus. Pulse started with the South African shooting duo of Burger and Rademan combining with Adean Thomas to form a formidable attacking unit. There was a sense of anticipation as the teams lined up for the first whistle, with both sides targeting this game as one they were particularly itching to win.

A ferocious opening few minutes saw Pulse get out to an early lead. The frontline used creativity and ball speed to outwit the Stars defenders and find Burger nicely under the post. Zara Everitt hustled on the circle edge to give Pulse an advantage on the scoreboard, but Stars managed to equalise through some tidy shooting from Paige Reed. Pulse adjusted their play in response to the challenge from Stars and both teams were matching each other for intensity, going goal for goal as the quarter progressed. Adean Thomas was finding space and using her speed to present strongly and find access to the shooters. The Pulse defence were causing havoc and forcing Stars to recycle the ball to the transverse line, which culminated in another turnover to give the London side the edge. However, Stars were showing hunger and determination to match Pulse and with captain Nia Jones working overtime to keep the ball alive Stars had a surge late in the quarter. At the quarter time whistle there was nothing to separate the two sides and the score was 8-8.

Neither Sam Bird nor Melissa Bessell made any changes for the second quarter, putting faith in their starting 7’s to maintain their strong form. Clever footwork and accurate shooting from Lefébre Rademan gave the home side a two-goal advantage, but two consecutive errors from the Pulse attack proved costly and allowed Stars to go on a five-goal run and take the lead. A change from Pulse saw Ash Dekker replace Adean Thomas in WA and Ellie Rattu take the C bib. Neither side was backing away from the contest and Pulse still trailed by two. In true Funmi Fadoju style, the GD racked up some crucial tips to draw the side back within one. Another turnover gave Pulse the chance to equalise through Rademan and then an enormous effort from the Pulse defence put the London side back in front at half time. The scoreline was 21-19 as the teams headed into the changing room to regroup after a physical and exciting 24 minutes of netball.

In the third quarter Malysha Kelly replaced Lucy Herdman in GK for Stars in an attempt to shut down the dominant force of Burger under the post. Stars were able to equalise but then the two sides traded turnovers, each grappling for control of momentum in the quarter. Fadoju was getting her hand on plenty of ball, but the Pulse attack line were lacking some of the clinical play from the opening quarter and weren’t able to capitalise. The game continued with the teams going goal for goal until a steal by Ash Dekker allowed Pulse to nudge ahead again. Every player on court was giving their all to the game, forcing each pass to be made under pressure and putting their bodies on the line. A warning was given to co-captain Lindsay Keable for persistent contact in the circle and Stars were able to steal the centre pass and draw the scores level again to 30-30 at the break. Stars won the quarter narrowly by 2 goals, setting up a thrilling finish to such a closely fought game.

In the final quarter the two teams lifted the intensity further and found another gear, each desperate to come out on top. The Pulse defence line shuffled to move Fadoju back into GK, but the positional switch had no impact on her ability to steal ball and disrupt the Stars attacking line. Stars nudged ahead but Pulse answered, and the sides were hard to separate until the final few minutes. Every pass and every turnover was critical, and the teams knew that the game would go down to the wire. With four minutes to go Stars were ahead by two, and the physicality stepped up from both sides. Rattu came through with a crucial interception with just two minutes to go and Pulse were back level again, as they had been for so much of the contest. Neither side wanted to make a mistake, but a held ball gave Pulse the opportunity and they snatched it with both hands, pulling ahead through Rademan. The final few minutes were frantic and with just 30 seconds still to play suddenly Pulse were up by two. The home crowd erupted at the final whistle as Pulse clinched the win with 42 goals to 40. It was a fantastic matchup and both sides gave their all and played some of their most exciting and impressive netball from the season so far.

Player of the Match was awarded to Funmi Fadoju for another standout performance in defence. Fadoju continues to impress in her breakout season, sitting at the top of the league table for deflections and putting fear in the hearts of attackers across the competition. Pulse face Mavericks next in their second match of the doubleheader weekend and will be hunting to replicate the success from this hard-earned win.

Sam Bird commented: “It’s fantastic to win two matches back to back. This is testament to the players hard work and effort to combine in their units and to focus in critical moments.”

Squad: Starting 7: Burger, Rademan, Thomas, Dekker, Everitt, Fadoju, Keable.  Bench: Drayne, Tchine, Stibbs, Rattu, Akinyemi