Melbourne Vixens showed they wont lower their colours against weaker opponents with a dominant home win over Adelaide Thunderbirds at Hisense Arena on Sunday.
The Vixens won their fifth-straight game with a 73-48 victory claiming all eight points from the contest and moving into second place on the Super Netball ladder.
With Giants Netball, Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning all close behind, the Vixens needed to take full points as they face the Giants, top team West Coast Fever and Sunshine Coast in the final three games.
The Vixens strong form was acknowledged by Australian Diamonds selectors as six players were named in the 17-player squad on Sunday for internationals later in the year.
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said her players knew there was plenty to play for despite holding on to a winning margin throughout the match.
“Generally it was pretty consistent across the whole game,” McKinnis said.
“One of the most pleasing thing was the way we pounced on everything, and we were attacking anything that was loose, which was a good indicator of the intensity we bought into the game."
Vixens shooter Mwai Kumwenda starred, with 52 goals from 56 shots. Thunderbirds introduced former New Zealand international shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti in the second term, and she impressed with 28 goals from 29 attempts alongside emerging goal attack Charlee Hodges, daughter of former AFL full forward Scott Hodges.
McKinnis said her side tried not to focus on claiming the points from each quarter but knew they would be vital with the ladder so close.
“Im rapt we did [claim eight points] and we earned them,” McKinnis said.
“But it was also good to have Sammy Gooden out there playing and have Jacqui Newton make a cameo at the end – Im rapt we have the eight points but it is not the focus.”
The Vixens had to work for their goals early as the Thunderbirds kept pace, but the Melbourne defence then put the foot down to help them run away with the contest.
Kadie Ann Dehaney and Renae Ingles were unplayable for the young Thunderbirds attack as they repeatedly forced intercepts or deflections, with Ingles causing two turnovers in succession.
The Vixens went on a 10-3 run to end the term leading 21-9 at the first break.
Adelaide introduced Tuivaiti to the goal circle, and she had an impact despite having a heavily strapped knee following surgery last year. But still the Vixens remained in command, leading 40-23 at half time.
A 4-0 start for the Vixens looked ominous for the Thunderbirds but they managed to keep the quarter competitive despite the home side claiming the term 17-12.
Kumwenda took the chance to attempt and make a "basketball style" lay up late in the game after being left alone in the circle.
Emerging Vixens shooter Gooden was introduced late in the third term in place of Tegan Philip and she added some late goals while defender Newton made her debut late on as the Vixens claimed a post-to-post victory.
The Vixens play Giants Netball at Hisense Arena on Sunday at 1pm.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.
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