West Coast Fever have let slip an opportunity to take down a Super Netball giant in a thrilling 63-all draw with ladder leaders Melbourne Vixens.
- Jhaniele Fowler landed a goal in the dying seconds to tie the score for the Fever
- The Vixens are still on top of the standings, while the Fever are placed fourth
- The Firebirds caused a major boilover, defeating the Swifts 77-64
Fourth-placed West Coast led the competition pacesetter for three quarters in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, before Vixens ace Caitlin Thwaites threatened to break their hearts with a two-point shot inside the last minute.
But, with 13 seconds left, the Fever kept their heads and found Jhaniele Fowler, whose 59th goal ensured the competition points were shared.
The result did not threaten the Vixens’ hold of top spot on the ladder, as they ended up moving six points clear of NSW Swifts, who went down 77-64 to Queensland Firebirds in an upset loss in Saturday’s second match.
The draw ensured the Fever remain in fourth place, comfortably clear of the Giants.
More importantly, it announced West Coast as genuine title threats after pushing the Vixens and thumping Sunshine Coast Lightning in recent matches.
“I think we’re all feeling more confident than we were,” Fever wing attack Emma Cosh said.
“We know there’s some little things to work on but certainly we know we can get there.”
Missing goal keeper Emily Mannix to a calf injury, it was not the Vixens at their best.
They had 23 turnovers by three-quarter time and co-captain Liz Watson’s league MVP campaign lost some steam as she was kept relatively quiet by Jess Anstiss.
The Vixens were saved by Thwaites, who shot 22 goals including four super shots, while Allie Smith’s two gains and two intercepts made for a brilliant debut.
There was nothing between the teams during a first quarter in which Fever shooter Fowler notched her 500th goal for the season.
The Fever seemed content to allow the match-up between Alice Teague-Neeld and the Vixens’ Jo Weston to cancel out each other’s influence.
With Weston engaged elsewhere, the circle edge opened up for Fever wing attack Emma Cosh.
Cosh was the most prolific feeder for either side during the first half as the Fever gradually gained control.
McKinnis switched Weston to wing defence yet still the Fever were good enough to open up an 11-goal lead.
Weston ended up at goal keeper but was unable to make an impact on Fowler.
Firebirds stun Swifts
The Firebirds have marched behind youngster Tippah Dwan to upset Super Netball’s defending champions, the Swifts.
The Firebirds are supposedly in a rebuilding period but looked like they were ahead of schedule in their win over the second-placed Swifts.
Romelda Aiken’s experience and class helped her to 43 goals but the prime movers for the win were the Firebirds’ younger brigade.
Dwan, 20, has been threatening to deliver a match-winning performance for weeks and Saturday was the day she landed it, with 26 points including eight two-goal super shots and 21 feeds.
She was helped along the way by young general Mahalia Cassidy and a breakout performance from Lara Dunkley.
“It’s just confidence. Once I get one shot in I feel like the girls around me have faith in me to take those shots,” Dwan said.
The win lifted the Firebirds to sixth and they are an outside chance of qualifying for the finals, although they will need other results to go their way.
Swifts coach Briony Akle commended the Firebirds but was critical of her own group after the flat performance.
“They don’t play like they’re coming second last,” she said of the Firebirds.
“I don’t think we went in thinking it was going to be easy.
“They’ve got some great young players but we knew as soon as they got a sniff it would be hard to rein them in.
“We didn’t turn up and play the Swifts way today.”‘