A final-quarter revival from Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse sealed a 53-48 victory over AVIS Magic, vaulting them back to the top of the table and leaving the battle for the finals berths still wide open. 

There was so much on the line for both sides at the Globox Arena in Hamilton - Pulse seeking the top rung from Trident Homes Tactix, and Magic desperate to claim third spot ahead of defending champions MG Mystics. And it was obvious in the frenetic pace and intensity maintained throughout the match.  

While Magic led at every quarter break, often holding a six-goal advantage, the seamless connections between Parris Mason, Tiana Metuarau and the returning Amelia Walmsley in the final quarter turned the game around for Pulse. 

A bonus point keeps Magic in the running for a place in the finals with two rounds remaining. 

The Pulse were able to employ their potent bench to great effect – with captain Metuarau and the return of Walmsley and Maddy Gordon from injuries that took them out for the majority of the competition. 

It was a nervy start from both sides, who were, unsurprisingly, fired up on defence, with barely a handful of goals scored in the first five minutes.  

When the Magic leapt ahead by three halfway through the spell, Metuarau took the court at goal attack for Kiana Pelasio, (and remained for the rest of the match).  The defenders at either end quickly had their eye in, in particular the long-levered goal keeps, Kelly Jackson for Pulse and Erena Mikaere for Magic.

But the partnership between Magic shooters Saviour Tui and Ameliaranne Ekenasio lifted to another level, with Tui unafraid to shoot from distance, ending the quarter with 10 shots from 10 attempts, and Magic led 13-10. 

The gap opened to six soon after the break, with goal defence Oceane Maihi bringing a dash more height into the Magic circle, replacing Georgia Takarangi. Experienced centre Ariana Cable-Dixon and in-form wing attack Claire O’Brien placed the ball beautifully for their dynamic shooters, and Magic appeared to have the momentum.

Then Pulse staged a crucial comeback. Jackson went hunting, and the Pulse drew Mikaere out of the circle so they could lob long bombs into goal shoot Martina Salmon, and the difference closed to two.

Magic looked to have control, 26-22, at halftime but the Pulse struck back again. 

Their midcourt defence stepped up to confuse Magic’s options, and Metuarau and Whitney Souness looked long and found Salmon beneath the post with pinpoint accuracy, to add five in a row and steal the lead.

Gordon and Walmsley returned to the fray with the Pulse up by one, and the two teams went goal-for-goal. Takarangi, back in the Magic circle defence, made some gutsy intercepts as if the premiership title was on the line, and the home side dipped in front again, 42-40, going into the final stanza.  

Just when the Magic looked to be gathering momentum, pushing out to four, Walmsley snatched a rare goal shoot’s intercept and kept Pulse within reach. Goal defence Parris Mason was on fire - with a long feed, a smart steal and a telling tip - and Pulse were back in front 47-46. 

Magic found it almost impossible to pierce the Pulse’s circle defence from then on, and the visitors claimed the final quarter 13-6, and with it the spoils. 

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