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Thunderbirds (46) fall prey to Vixens (52)

The Adelaide Thunderbirds have failed to strengthen their hold on a finals berth, going down to fierce rivals Melbourne Vixens in their ANZ Championship match at ETSA park on Sunday.

In a match laden with international representatives, the Thunderbirds were outplayed in the second half to go down 46 - 52 in front of a sell out home crowd.

The rivalry between the two teams was evident from the start, with a particularly physical first quarter. Coming off the bye last week, the Vixens were quick out of the blocks. Caitlin Thwaites and Sharelle McMahon were on top in the goal circle, while the Vixens defence was thwarting any Thunderbirds forward movement. Melbourne were out to a 0 - 5 lead from the start, before the Thunderbirds hit back. Bouyed by the vocal home crowd, they leveled the scores 5 - 5. The Thunderbirds continued to find their feet after a nervous start, pusing out to a 13 - 11 lead at quarter time.

Goal attack Natalie Medhurst was particularly prominent throughout the first quarter, nailing eight goals from eight attempts and covering plenty of court. Defenders Mo`onia Gerrard and Geva Mentor also raised their games to assist the Thunderbirds to a two goal quarter time lead.

The Thunderbirds came out running in the second quarter, with Medhurst continuing where she left off in the first quarter. Alex Clarke and captain Natalie Von Bertouch were working hard through the mid court, and the Thunderbirds appeared to have all the momentum. However, a missed opportunity from goal shooter Kristen Hughes, and a quick rebound from the Vixens saw a momentum shift in their favour. A hard fought battle followed for the rest of the quarter, seeing the teams go into the half time break 24 goals apiece.

Thunderbirds coach Jane Woodlands opted to change things up in the goal circle in the third quarter. Hughes, who was only shooting at 64 per cent and who had missed a couple of vital shots, was replaced with young West Australian recruit Kate Beveridge. This appeared to have an immediate impact, with Beveridge shooting well and feeding plenty of good ball to fellow shooter Medhurst. The Thunderbirds scored 14 points for the quarter, their best offensive effort of the match, but things began to fall apart defensively.

The teams went goal for goal early in the third quarter, before Vixens captain and goal attack Sharelle McMahon took the upper hand in her battle with Gerrard, and some errant passes crept into the Thunderbirds game. The Adelaide defence leaked 17 goals for the quarter, as Vixens forwards McMahon and Thwaites shot at 89 per cent, taking them to a four point lead at the final break.

Coach Woodlands opted for further changes in the final quarter, moving Gerrard to wing defence for Georgia Beaton and bringing Bianca Reddy in to goal defence in a bid to halt the dangerous McMahon. It worked for the Thunderbirds on a defensive level, with McMahon only capitalising on three of seven shots for the quarter. However, the Vixens defence were also on top of the Thunderbirds forwards, and further errors began to creep into Adelaide`s game.

The Vixens stretched their lead out to seven and the result was ominous. The vocal home crowd cheered the Thunderbirds to a mini revival where they cut the lead to four, but it was all too late for the home side as they ended up going down by six goals.

Von Bertouch said it was disappointing to lose in front of a sell out home crowd, but the team was particularly greatful for their support.

The Thunderbirds must now regroup in time for their for their next match against the NSW Swifts at ETSA Park on the the 26th May.

Match Shooting Statistics:

Adelaide Thunderbirds Shooting Statistics:

Kristen Hughes - 7/11 (64%)
Natalie Medhurst - 29/33 (88%)
Kate Beveridge - 10/14 (71%)

Melbourne Vixens Shooting Statistics:

Caitlin Thwaites - 29/35 (83%)
Sharelle McMahon - 23/31 (74%)

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Hon Mike Rann MP

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