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Queensland Firebirds (55) defeated Melbourne Vixens (48)

Official Result: Mission Queensland Firebirds (55) defeated Melbourne Vixens (48)

A potent Mission Queensland Firebirds took full advantage of a depleted Melbourne Vixens to post an untroubled 55-48 win after leading from start to finish in Melbourne on Sunday.

In a rematch a last year’s Grand Final, the Firebirds reversed that result to notch their third successive win as the Vixens faced a test of character in adjusting to life with Madi Robinson.

The result consigned the reigning premiers to a third straight loss, the first time the Vixens have lost three in a row since 2012. Without their lynchpin, the Vixens hung tough but could not breach the overall firepower of the well-performed visiting team who took control of proceedings from the outset.

Well-timed precision passing to tall shooting duo Gretel Tippett and Romelda Aiken, where wing attack Caitlyn Nevins continues to shine, laid the platform for the Firebirds. The visitors were equally strong on defence, showing the prowess of their full court ability to stifle the Vixens attacking momentum as they went on to increase their lead at each of the breaks.

After losing influential pivot Robinson last week for the season with a serious knee injury, Vixens were always looking at a reshuffled midcourt, punting for Liz Watson (wing attack), Kate Maloney (centre) and Jo Weston (wing defence).

On a roll after successive wins, the Firebirds presented with an unchanged line-up, goal attack Tippett, the former basketballer coming into her own this season and being given a licence to play with her customary freedom and flair.

Bedding in their new-look line-up took time for the Vixens, the visitors finding their feet early to score the first three goals, Tippett and Aiken exuding confidence and accuracy under their hoop.

The home team recovered from their slow start to get back on level terms as shooters Tegan Philip and Karyn Bailey found their feet on the back of patient attacking build-ups.

It remained an even contest leading up to the first break, the Firebirds edging to a 14-12 advantage at the changeover.

Looking to stem the Firebirds flow, the Vixens replaced Weston with Chloe Watson, on debut, on the resumption. The home team stuck close initially before the floodgates opened for the visitors late in the second stanza. Facing mounting defensive pressure, the Vixens struggled to make impact with the ball on attack.

Laura Geitz, Clare McMeniman and Gabi Simpson were super effective in creating turnovers for the Firebirds, the visitors putting their foot down with a late burst of dominance to stretch out to an eight-goal lead.

Classy Vixens goalkeeper Geva Mentor had her moments with some vital steals against Aiken but the Firebirds remained on top when leading 28-22 at the main break.

In a special moment, Kelsey Browne made her debut in the second half for the Vixens, assuming her older sister Robinson’s wing attack bib, the home team pulling out all stops to get back in the contest.

The Vixens chipped away in an even third quarter but couldn’t stamp enough authority to get the breakthrough. Geitz produced a big quarter in picking off a clutch of decisive intercepts, leaving Aiken and Tippett to nail the opportunities at the other end.

Defence remained key for the visitors who delivered an uncompromising effort in ensuring the Vixens had no easy path to goal while forging a 42-35 lead at the last break.

Firebirds shooting statistics:
Romelda Aiken 37/46 (80%)
Gretel Tippett 18/26 (69%)

Vixens shooting statistics:
Tegan Philip 27/30 (90%)
Karyn Bailey 21/24 (88%)

Chemist Warehouse MVP: Kim Ravaillion (Firebirds)

END

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