Swifts secure grand final spot after demolishing Vixens

THE NSW Swifts have earned a spot in the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final against the Sunshine Coast Lighting, after a stellar performance knocking the Melbourne Vixens out of the finals race (60-47). It was a fiery clash from the first whistle with both teams leaving nothing to chance but the Swifts were simply too good firing on all cylinders and nullifying the Vixens every move. This match also marked the last game for retiree, Renae Ingles after 187 national league games.

It was a shaky start for both sides with the ball ebbing and flowing before the Swifts landed the first blow. Despite the Vixens starting with the centre pass the Swifts applied a mountain of pressure causing a turnover within minutes and going on a scoring spree. Sam Wallace seemed to shake off the yips of last week looking to the post with confidence and backing herself from range. The goal shooter did not miss a goal in the opening term slotting 13 goals straight while partner-in-crime Helen Housby showcased her attacking flair with her dynamic movement in the goal circle. On the other hand, the Vixens did not register a score until the four minute mark of the quarter thanks to a long bomb from Tegan Philip who shouldered most of the load under the post. The Melbourne Vixens shooters failed to have the same impact as last week with Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau owning both Philip and Caitlin Thwaites. Turner asserted herself on the game from the first whistle contesting every ball notching up three gains and two intercepts. Both Philip and Thwaites struggled to rotate through the circle with shooting accuracy proving to be an issue for Thwaites only converting four goals from seven attempts at 57 per cent. Things did not get much better for the Vixens in defence with Emily Mannix drawing plenty of attention from the umpire and forcing a change in the goal keeper bib with Jamaican Kadie-Ann Dehaney coming on with two minutes left in the quarter. It got out to a 10-goal lead before the Vixens worked their way back into the contest thanks to Mwai Kumwenda replacing Thwaites under the post and making the most of her opportunities reducing the margin to seven goals at quarter time.

The Vixens seemed more settled in attack during the second term, treasuring the ball and working hard to apply plenty of defensive pressure but Silver Fern, Katrina Rore lifted her intensity taking Liz Watson out of the game. Watson really struggled turning over a lot of ball and was unable to have her usual impact with ball in hand credit to Rore’s hands over pressure and ability to block her every drive. The wing defence picked up three gains and three intercepts in the term while Paige Hadley had an absolute blinder dominating both defensively and offensively. Although the ball struggled to get to the circle edge, when it did, Kumwenda made good use of it dominating Klau with her aerial ability and accuracy. Meanwhile, the connection between Nat Haythornthwaite and Housby for the Swifts was on song early with the two releasing the ball with confidence around the circle edge. The Vixens failed to make the most of their opportunities with Philip called for a held ball along with errant passes gifting the Swifts easy avenue to goal. With six minutes left in the term Kate Moloney shifted into wing attack, pushing Watson into centre in hope to create some more movement in attack while Mannix re-entered the game moments later but it was to no avail heading into half-time down by 11 goals.

With their season on the line, Melbourne Vixens came out with a point to prove. Philip made her move nailing the first goal of the quarter marking her four hundredth goal of the season. Her efforts were equally rivalled by teammate Jo Weston who took a huge intercept and propelled the ball back down the court to kick start a scoring frenzy for the Vixens. Kumwenda relished the back space and clever ball placement by both Moloney and Watson who upped the ante in attack with their constant give and go’s. With 11 minutes left in the quarter the Swifts took a timeout in hope to quell the influence of the Vixens but that did not stop them with Philip putting on a masterclass in the circle. The Vixens worked tirelessly to reduce the margin to a mere seven goals before surging ahead again nailing four consecutive goals followed by a huge intercept by Mannix to cut the lead back to five goals. But the Swifts were not done with yet, showing their composure and patience with ball in hand to work it round until an opening appeared. Turner continued her hot form with two gains and a deflection while Klau stood up with two crucial rebounds. With the Vixens tails up, the Swifts made a change bringing Sophie Garbin on in goal attack to replace Housby who was starting to tire. The fresh legs paid dividends with Garbin composed under the post and sighting Wallace with ease to push the buffer back out to seven goals.

The Swifts left nothing to chance coming out with a real intensity and passion. Klau led from the front with a huge intercept working her way around Kumwenda and sending the ball back down the court quickly rewarded with a Wallace layup. Housby returned to the court after sitting on the bench in the dying moments of the third quarter and punished the Vixens defensive unit with her vision and movement. Philip continued to pose a threat putting the afterburners on but could not convert letting the lead slide back out. Midway through the term Rore swapped into goal defence while Sophie Halpin made her way into wing defence but that was shortly lived with Halpin taking a big knock and forced from the court. But the Swifts just could not be stopped with Wallace (40 from 42) and Housby (19 form 21) putting on a clinic compared to Philip (21 from 25) and Kumwenda (22 from 26) who struggled for volume.

STARTING LINE-UPS:

NSW Swifts:

GS | Sam Wallace
GA | Helen Housby
WA | Nat Haythornthwaite
C | Paige Hadley
WD | Katrina Rore
GD | Maddy Turner
GK | Sarah Klau

Melbourne Vixens:

GS | Caitlin Thwaites
GA | Tegan Philip
WA | Liz Watson
C | Kate Moloney
WD | Renae Ingles
GD | Jo Weston
GK | Emily Mannix

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