ANZ Premiership: Champions Central Pulse inflict first loss of season on Northern Stars

Defending champions Central Pulse have done ANZ Premiership rivals a big favour by sending competition leaders Northern Stars to their first defeat of the 2021 season.

After opening their campaign with five straight victories, the Stars led 30-29 soon after halftime, but conceded six straight goals to fall away during the third quarter, as the Pulse merged 57-44 winners.

The Wellingtonians attempted 10 more shots at goal of the second and outscored their opponents by 12 over that stretch, dominating possession and accuracy.

Pulse shooter Aliyah Dunn emerged as the game's top scorer, converting 35/39 attempts (90 percent) and enjoyed an edge over Silver Ferns star Maia Wilson, who connected on 23/29 (79 percent).

Te Amo Amaru-Tibble supported Dunn with 22/27 shooting, while Pulse goalkeep Kelera Nawai dominated the defensive circle with five intercepts.

"We had a really good week of training and the intensity went up several notches," Pulse captain Claire Kersten has told Sky Sport.

The titleholders have made several key personnel changes from the line-up that captured consecutive championships over the past two years, with veteran defender Katrina Rore and shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio both on maternity leave.

"That always takes a little bit of time, when you look at the people who have been at the Pulse for quite a long time and we don't have at the moment," says Kirsten. "It takes time for those combinations to click and to feel natural out there.

"I think tonight was the best we've felt - it wasn't always pretty, but it felt more comfortable in those tight moments."

Their win - only their second of the season - has lifted the Pulse to fourth on the competition table, while the Stars remain clear of Northern Mystics at the top.