The Melbourne Vixens have won through to the trans-Tasman netball grand final after defeating the Queensland Firebirds by five goals.
The Melbourne Vixens maintained their composure to be the first team to win through to the trans-Tasman netball grand final on Monday night.
The minor premiers never conceded the lead in a 52-47 victory over the Queensland Firebirds in their major semi-final at Hisense Arena in Melbourne.
The Vixens had lost their last three finals – two playoff games last year and the 2012 grand final – but stayed calm when challenged by the Firebirds in the final quarter.
The home side dominated the first quarter to grab a seven-goal lead, but the Firebirds got as close as two goals in the third quarter and three goals in the last term.
“I did not want to be in the position that I saw the Swifts in yesterday,” said Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield, referring to the NSW Swifts’ minor semi-final loss on Sunday when they led by five goals before losing in the final seconds.
“We knew we had a second chance, but we did not want to use it.”
The Vixens get a week off before the decider, while the Firebirds will host the preliminary final against the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, who pipped the Swifts.
Both sides started nervously with errors, wild passes and poor goal-shooting accuracy punctuating the opening exchanges.
The Vixens soon settled, with Madi Robinson, Liz Watson and Kate Moloney in the mid-court giving better delivery to shooters Karyn Bailey (25 goals from 29 attempts) and Tegan Caldwell (27 from 36).
At the other end, the Vixens’ defenders Geva Mentor and Bianca Chatfield were able to get their hands on enough ball to cut down the supply to Firebirds shooters Romelda Aiken (35 from 41) and Amy Wild (12 from 15).
At quarter time, the Vixens led 16-9 and appeared in control.
But the Firebirds lifted and with better work in the mid-court and patience in their all-court defence, they slowly worked their way back into the match.
Midway through the third quarter, they trailed by just two goals and appeared to have the momentum.
The Vixens responded to the pressure, scoring six of the next seven goals, with Caldwell sinking several long-range shots to restore control for the Vixens.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jenkce praised her side’s tenacious spirit but bemoaned a poor start.
“We let them out to that lead in the first quarter and you can’t play catch up with the Vixens, you really do need to make sure you stay in touch,” she said.
“Our first quarter – we were tentative, we didn’t take our drives, we didn’t back ourselves and in a final you need to be courageous and be confident.