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Netball - 28. February 2011.

ANZ Netball Championships-Vixens fend off fast-finishing Swifts

Round 3
A scorching first quarter set the Melbourne Vixens up for a pulsating 49-45 win over the NSW Swifts in ANZ Championship action in Sydney today.

Seemingly out of the contest when trailing by 10 after the first quarter, the Swifts staged a stirring fightback, winning the second and third quarters and drawing the fourth before slumping to a second straight loss.

Vixens held their composure, resisting everything the Swifts could throw at them to record a second successive win on the road for a perfect start to their season.

The Vixens stunned their hosts with a blistering opening. The visitors hardly missed a beat and soon had the Swifts in deep trouble with their accurate, fast, low risk netball.

The Swifts struggled on attack from the opening whistle, shooters Catherine Cox and Susan Pratley denied opportunities through the staunch defensive efforts of Renae Hallinan, Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor. They were well complemented at the other end of the court, the growing shooting partnership between Sharelle McMahon and Kate Beveridge continuing to blossom.

Revelling in the space they were afforded, the pair showed clinical positioning and finishing as the score climbed alarmingly with Beveridge returning a perfect 10 goals from 10 attempts and McMahon having just the one miss. With the Swifts offering little resistance, the Vixens raced out to an impressive 17-7 lead at the first break.

The response from the Swifts was just as dramatic, the hosts looking for some redemption in a stirring second quarter fightback. Captain Cox was sent to the bench after struggling to cope with the smothering defence of Mentor and taking nine minutes to put up her first shot.

Her bib was taken up by Carla Dziwoki while Courtney Tairi took over at centre from Kim Greene, who went to wing attack and Vanessa Ware to the bench.

A lift in intensity and purpose was evident straight away when the Swifts potted the first three goals as the match headed into the arm wrestle that was expected at the start. In-circle defenders Rebecca Bulley and Sonia Mkoloma turned the heat up on the Vixens shooters, who for the first time showed some vulnerability while a composed Dziwoki showed great accuracy and movement at the other end in tandem with a rejuvenated Pratley. Tairi helped instigate more fluency on attack as the Swifts chipped into the deficit.

Trailing by as many as 11 in the first quarter, the Swifts had narrowed the gap to six as the Vixens went to halftime with a 27-21 lead.

The home team made further inroads in a titanic third quarter struggle as both sets of shooters were put under the most intense of pressure. Turnovers climbed as players put their bodies on the line, momentum swinging between the teams as shooting accuracy became all-important.

The Vixens dropped from 94 percent at the end of the first quarter to 76 percent by the end of the third quarter, while the Swifts climbed from the mid-70s to 83 percent. That helped them inch back into contention as Pratley and Dziwoki held their nerve in further whittling the Vixens' lead to 37-33 at the last break.

The return of Cox and introduction of Moonia Gerrard, at wing defence, coincided with a drop-off in intensity from the home team while the Vixens were all business as they made the better start. Beveridge and McMahon stood out on defence as they picked up vital intercept ball and helping the visitors edged out to a nine-goal lead.

However, the Swifts were far from done as they rallied strongly, reducing the deficit to four on the back of some fine play from Pratley and Cox in a torrid but fruitless run home.

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