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Thunderbirds 39, pip Vixens 38

The Adelaide Thunderbirds halted the winning run of arch-rivals Melbourne Vixens with a heart-stopping 39-38 win in third-round ANZ Championship netball action in Melbourne today.

The shooting accuracy and general court play of goal attack Natalie Medhurst and the outstanding defensive work of Mo’onia Gerrard laid the platform for the Thunderbirds who held a slight edge throughout.

With eight internationals spread across the two teams, the match promised plenty of head-to-head clashes against Australia’s best in an enthralling battle.

The defensive pressure accounted for a low-scoring showdown where turnovers were plentiful, the Thunderbirds having to dig deep as the Vixens threatened to steal the match in the dying moments. Gerrard was at her menacing best as she tamed the dangerous Sharelle McMahon in the throes of inflicting the Vixens` first loss of the competition. The Thunderbirds were quickly into stride, their snappy attacking play and fine finishing from Medhurst giving the visitors a handy buffer early on.

At the other end of the court, the Thunderbirds dynamic in-circle defensive duo of Gerrard and England international Geve Mentor played influential roles in stifling the Vixens shooting options.

A string of five straight goals helped propel the Thunderbirds to a 12-8 first quarter advantage. Centre Natasha Chokljat was to the forefront as the Vixens improved their momentum on attack after the resumption with a lift in intensity. Shooter Caitlin Thwaites found her range from all points of the circle with a string of goals to narrow the gap in an absorbing contest. The Thunderbirds remained staunch, a late quarter flutter ensuring they retained momentum in finishing the half 22-19 ahead.

A rampant start to the third quarter shot the Thunderbirds out to a six-goal advantage as the visitors continued to hold sway. The Vixens were unable to stem the Thunderbirds flow and pace on attack with Medhurst continuing to flourish from the quality of ball she was delivered.

The home team could not produce a similar rhythm, their attack often being slowed and interrupted through good defensive pressure where Gerrard and Mentor proved constant spoilers. The Vixens had their moments but could not sustain the momentum for long enough, time and again losing possession at crucial points to allow the Thunderbirds just enough leeway to keep their noses in front 33-30 at three-quarter time.

In the final period the Vixens fought back with admirable tenacity on defence and closed the gap, but continued to struggle to control the ball through the court to their shooters. Vixens had an opportunity to level in the last thirty seconds of the match but 17-year-old Georgia Beaton coolly stepped up and took a crucial interception which allowed the Thunderbirds to hold possession and see out the game 39-38.

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The Power SGIC ANZ Holden

Hon Mike Rann MP

Hon Mike Rann MP