A classy Queensland Firebirds side came away with a hard-fought 54-45 win over the Melbourne Vixens on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
The Vixens bounced back bravely from a tough week after their record loss to the NSW Swifts. Coming into this match with a new-look midcourt, the Vixens had patches of brilliance, particularly the second quarter.
But it proved a tough ask against the in-form team in the league, the Firebirds possessing too much finishing power across all areas as they showed their full credentials during a powerful second half.
The Vixens set about shoring up their midcourt with Liz Watson slotting in at wing attack, Kate Maloney, centre, and Chloe Watson taking up the wing defence bib.
Scrapping their way through the opening exchanges, the Vixens stayed in the contest, a mix of good defence and errors resulting in the Firebirds holding an 11-7 lead at the end of a low-scoring opening stanza.
The Vixens switched their shooters on the resumption with Karyn Bailey going to goal attack and Tegan Philip back in the shooter position, which paid dividends in a successful second term for the visitors.
Looking more settled and showing great patience in their build-ups, the shooting pair revelled in their new roles to help the visitors claw their way back.
Philip enjoyed the extra space, picking up her shooting volume to help the more purposeful Vixens draw level. However, the visitors were unable to sustain their efforts, two late spurts helping the Firebirds take a 23-20 lead into the main break.
The Vixens introduced Kelsey Browne at wing attack with Liz Watson moving to centre after the main break but it was the Firebirds who made a decisive move, led by captain Geitz and livewire centre Kim Ravaillion, the home team threatened to bust the game wide open.
To their credit the Vixens maintained some stability in the latter stages of the quarter, Chloe Watson proving to be a star of the future in the wing defence position.
The Firebirds finish the match with a 9-goal victory, defeating the defending champions 54-45 on their home soil and maintaining the Challenge Trophy.
The Vixens now look to a home clash at Margaret Court Arena against the improved West Coast Fever.
Queensland Firebirds shooting statistics:
Romelda Aiken 38/44 (86%)
Gretel Tippett 16/36 (62%)
Melbourne Vixens shooting statistics:
Karyn Bailey 24/29 (83%)
Tegan Philip 21/15 (84%)
Chemist Warehouse MVP: Gabi Simpson