Queensland Firebirds have burnt Central Pulse 60-33 to secure back-to-back trans-Tasman netball championship finals berths for the first time.
The last time Queensland met the Central Pulse in the trans-Tasman netball championship the Firebirds were accused of thuggery.
But Queensland looked more like bullies when a record-breaking Romelda Aiken helped the Firebirds thrash the Pulse 60-33 on the Gold Coast on Saturday and book back-to-back finals campaigns for the first time.
Still win-less on Australian soil, Central Pulse (7-5 record) will now need to thrash West Coast in Perth by more than 30 goals in next week’s regular season finale to be any chance of clinching a maiden finals berth.
There has been no love lost since their now infamous 2013 round two clash after Firebirds skipper Laura Geitz was dubbed a “thug” by the New Zealand press for a brutal “don’t argue” on Pulse strike weapon Donna Wilkins.
But the re-match quickly became a romp for 2011 champions Queensland (8-4 record) who locked up a top four spot with a fifth straight win inspired by their Jamaican sharp shooter.
The 196cm Aiken revelled in superb service from Verity Simmons to easily nab the 12 goals she needed to become the first player in championship history to shatter the 3500 barrier by quarter-time.
In the end, Aiken finished head and shoulders above Pulse skipper Katrina Grant with 46 goals at 87 per cent shooting.
Coming off a last round bye, Queensland still jumped to a 17-7 quarter-time buffer.
The deficit blew out to 21 in the second term and they still led 34-16 at halftime despite Pulse grabbing six of the last nine goals.
At three quarter-time Queensland led 46-25 and didn’t look back, leading 10-2 in rebounds and 7-2 in intercepts by fulltime.
Queensland now have a 7-0 record against the Pulse.
It added even more momentum to a Firebirds side that has effectively been playing sudden death netball for the past five weeks to stay in the finals hunt.
Former easybeats Pulse – boasting 10 internationals – had plenty to play for but not even inspirational 41-year-old Irene van Dyk (13 goals at 93 per cent) could help.
Fifth-placed Pulse now have a lousy 5-29 record against Australian teams.
Despite the near flawless display, Geitz said they would look to fine tune their form ahead of the finals in their last regular season game against the Magic in Hamilton on June 2.
“We are definitely hitting form. But there are lapses in each quarter where we drop off for a few minutes so it is still not an error-free performance – there is still lots to work on,” she said after Queensland booked their third finals campaign in four seasons.
The highly fancied Pulse’s skipper Grant still clung to their faint finals hopes.
“The finals are still a possibility, anything can happen. But if we do not make that top four it will be a disappointing season,” she said.