The Mission Queensland Firebirds sought revenge for the 2014 ANZ Championship Grand Final and succeeded, defeating the Melbourne Vixens 55-48 at Hisense Arena on Sunday.
Pending the result of the Adelaide Thunderbirds-NSW Swifts match, the loss could see the Vixens drop out of a finals qualification spot in the Australian conference, having suffered their third straight defeat.
Hit with the news of a season-ending knee injury to Diamonds wing attack, Madi Robinson, the Vixens rarely looked settled in their combinations with four different sevens taking the court through the match.
The Firebirds' athletic attacking duo Romelda Aiken (37 from 46) and Grettel Tippett (18 from 26) made their intentions know early with a positive start, before the Vixens reigned them in to trail 12-14 at the first change.
In a game that saw both sides mirror each other in general play errors, turnovers and penalties, it took a three-minute period in the latter stages of the second quarter to blow the match open.
A quick-fire six goal run all but decimated the Vixens who found no answer to the quick ball movement and passing skills of the Firebirds led by match MVP, Kim Ravallion.
In contrast, the Vixens found little continuity to their offense, despite efficient shooting performances from Tegan Philip (27 from 30) and Karyn Bailey (21 from 24).
The Firebirds had no such struggles with their own brand of attack putting up 18 more shots than the Vixens.
Building the margin to six at half time, the Firebirds' lead looked rarely threatened as Vixens coach Simone McKinnis rotated Jo Weston through wing defence in the first term before bringing her back on to goal defence for captain Bianca Chatfield.
Young defender Chloe Watson made her ANZ Championship debut at wing defence for just the second quarter, as mid courters Liz Watson andKate Moloney adjusted to life at wing attack and centre respectively.
They would find themselves back at their customary positions later, when McKinnis gave replacement player, Kelsey Browne her first ANZ Championship start at wing attack.
The moves proved to stop the flow the Firebirds had during the second quarter, but Queensland defenders Clare McMeniman and Laura Geitz applied the breaks on any chance the home side had to make inroads.
With margin pushed out to 10 briefly, but never submersing four goals, the Firebirds cantered home for third consecutive win.
Post-match Chatfield said despite the result, the team's performance was on the improve.
“I thought we had the attacking end and the defensive end working quite well today bring the ball down the court,” Chatfield said.
“I think it's just about getting it happening together at the same time. When we're attacking well, we have to be defending well, it's quite simple.
“The defensive pressure has to start from the goal shooter and in turn when we're attacking it has to start from us (Geva and I) from down our end.”
Coach McKinnis said her side was made to pay by not taking initiative of the middle of the court.
“You have to command that space and command that middle and I don't think we took ownership of that today,” McKinnis said.
“You know you are going to get pushed up high or pushed out wide and generally we've been pretty good at dealing with that. That was one of the elements that was missing today.
“That probably does come back to the connections and the adjustments of the positions.”
Despite having lost three on the trot for the first time since Rounds 7-9 back in 2012, McKinnis was adamant her players could turn their fortunes around.
“I imagine at the moment the group is really disappointed, but there's still a lot of netball to go.
“It's one game…but there's a whole lot of netball ahead and you just don't know how things are going to pan out. We've just got to look at next week and Steel, and focus on that game. And then the next game, focus on Tactix.
“You can be disappointed by the loss because we're competitors and we want the win, but you've got to move on really quickly and the best way to do that is getting on with the next task.
“I can't say it doesn't bother me, but it doesn't break my belief…in the players or the team. That's still there – we're just finding that team that we can be. It's taking a while and we're taking some kicks along the way, but we'll keep trying to find it and we'll get there.”
The Melbourne Vixens remain at home at Hisense Arena next Sunday when they host the Southern Steel.
Match Result: Mission Queensland Firebirds 55 defeated Melbourne Vixens 48
Vixens Shooting Statistics
Tegan Philip 27/30 (90%)
Karyn Bailey 21/24 (88%)
Firebirds Shooting Statistics
Romelda Aiken 36/43 (84%)
Grettel Tippett 18/26 (69%)
Match MVP: Kimberley Ravallion (Mission Queensland Firebirds)