54-44 win over Queensland Firebirds as they consigned the defending champions to a second successive loss in Brisbane today.
The result gave the well-rounded Thunderbirds a perfect two-from-two start to the season while Firebirds will be scratching their heads for answers after back-to-back losses, at home, to start their season.
Thunderbirds held a slight edge through the first half before going on to dominate the second half with an impressive all-round performance. Exposing their credentials as real title prospects, Thunderbirds stuck perfectly to their game plan throughout to gain the ultimate reward.
A big defensive team effort from Thunderbirds threw Firebirds off stride on attack while unflappable shooters Carla Borrego and Erin Bell shone with their consistency under the hoop.
The respective line-ups were book-ended by key strike weapons in Jamaican shooters Romelda Aiken and Borrego, their contributions having a telling impact.
It was the willowy Borrego who stamped her mark first as Thunderbirds made the best of starts. With wing attack Emily Beaton providing a quality service, Borrego propelled the visitors to early dominance.
Throwing out the challenge, Borrego was backed up by a strong team effort from her Thunderbirds team-mates where short, sharp passing ensured efficiency on attack while smothering defensive tactics subdued the Firebirds attacking prowess. The visitors made Firebirds pay for any blemish, converting their turnover ball for a 14-11 first quarter lead.
With Chelsea Pitman getting the start at wing attack and Lauren Nourse taking up the centres bib, Firebirds looked to resurrect their fortunes in a tight and physical second stanza.
Picking up their defensive effort, the home team fought back strongly to draw within two but lacked patience at times with too many ambitious passes. Increasingly frustrated, Firebirds could not maintain any consistency with Aiken having a jittery return under the hoop.
With goal attack Bell providing solid support for Borrego, Thunderbirds held the edge to lead 26-24 at halftime.
Looking for more punch and precision on attack, Firebirds introduced Elissa Macleod at centre for Nourse but the home team were slow out of the blocks. With little general Natalie von Bertouch an influential presence through the midcourt, defenders Sharni Layton and Rebecca Bulley maintaining a stranglehold on the Firebirds shooting duo and Borrego continuing to win the aerial battle with Laura Geitz, Thunderbirds produced a forceful third quarter.
In a hole, Firebirds were let down by the long ball into an under pressure Aiken, which was often astray and paid the price. A rejigged midcourt did not help the home teams cause, who continued to be hustled away from their usually reliable game plan. A five-goal unanswered scoring spree pushed Thunderbirds into a position of control and a handy 40-34 lead at three-quarter time.
More changes in the run home proved too little too late for Firebirds as Thunderbirds continued to repel everything the defending champions threw at them with interest.