Task getting tougher for Thunderbirds

www.mbphoto.co.nzTHE Adelaide Thunderbirds’ task of defending its ANZ Championship title is getting tougher after the reigning premiers lost another thriller in Round 9 action over the weekend.

The 50-49 defeat against the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in Rotorua was the Thunderbirds fifth consecutive loss and leaves them two games outside the top four heading towards the final month of the regular season.

The Thunderbirds rallied after trailing by six goals early in the game to lead the Magic heading into the final quarter. They still led with about five minutes left to play but the Magic responded to claim the victory which keeps them in the race for top spot on the ladder with the Melbourne Vixens.

Adelaide captain Renae Hallinan was pleased by her team’s response to their record defeat the previous week against the Vixens, but disappointed not to claim what would have been a confidence-boosting win.

“We were certainly in it for the 60 minutes and stuck to the game plan. It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort (that we lost),” Hallinan said after the match.

“It was a great turnaround from last week but we’re still shattered because it’s a game we could have won.”

The Thunderbirds play their first home game in more than a month this weekend when they host West Coast Fever, who are coming off a 51-44 loss to the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane which also dealt a blow to their top four hopes.

The Firebirds took control of the match late in the second term to open up an eight-goal lead at half-time and maintained that advantage right to the final whistle.

NA3Firebirds captain Laura Geitz said it was nice to get a win back on the Fever following their previous meeting in Perth this season when they gave up a similar advantage to lose.

“We didn’t close out that last game and really disappointed with that,” Geitz said.

“We knew they would keep coming back at us, which they did, but really happy with those two points.”

Fever captain Natalie Medhurst knew her side had let an opportunity slip to close the gap on the top four.

“It was really disappointing,” Medhurst said.

“Defensively we did a fantastic job. We got a lot of ball and in attack we were pretty woeful to be honest.”

The Firebirds, who sit in fourth spot but have played an extra game than the Fever and Thunderbirds, travel to the Gold Coast this Sunday for a home game against New Zealand side the Mainland Tactix.

NA1The NSW Swifts got back on the winners list after consecutive defeats with a 65-52 win over the Southern Steel in the first ever ANZ Championship clash played in Canberra on Anzac Day.

The 13-goal victory pleased Swifts’ captain Kimberlee Green after two bad losses against the Vixens and Firebirds.

“We wanted to redeem ourselves,” Green said. “We had a lot of talks after the (Firebirds) game but we said it’s about actions and I think our first half was brilliant.”

The Swifts face the Vixens in Melbourne this Sunday in a crucial game for both sides – as well as for the Sargeant-McKinnis Cup, named after two Australian netball icons in Anne Sargeant and Simone McKinnis, the current Vixens coach.

The Swifts, who hold the trophy, need to win by at least seven goals to retain the Cup that’s decided on aggregate after the Vixens won the earlier encounter in Sydney by six goals.

The Vixens remain on top of the ladder following an important 52-40 win over the Central Pulse in Wellington on Saturday to stretch their winning streak to six matches.

A dominant second term set up the Vixens’ win and captain Bianca Chatfield was delighted to record another victory on the road this season.

“It was a tough game, but we’re pretty happy to get through like that,” Chatfield said.

“We are just trying to stick to what we know and in those pressure times it’s just about getting that eye contact with each other and having the patience to move the ball around.”