The result reversed the five-goal win by the Swifts in the first match-up between the pair four weeks ago and left the visitors’ slipping down the pecking order after a third loss.
With Australian selection on the line for several and plenty at stake for both teams there was an extra edge to the match, both teams setting off at a frenetic pace which showed no signs of abating throughout.
It was an absorbing neck-and-neck struggle through the opening exchanges which produced a physical and low-scoring encounter.
Centre Kim Ravaillion and wing defence Gabi Simpson succeeded on their mission in keeping Swifts midcourt general Kim Green away from the circle edge while their spearhead under the hoop at the other end, Aiken showed a timely return to form.
Firebirds got their share of turnover ball in the opening stanza but couldn’t always capitalise, a three-goal scoring streak helping Swifts nudge in front with the visitors just holding their edge to lead 11-10 at the first break.
Jacinta Messer replaced Clare McMeniman at goal defence on the resumption as Firebirds sprung into action with a decisive and forceful second spell.
The home team’s defensive line did an excellent job in forcing the Swifts attackers wide, opening up the intercept opportunities for captain Laura Geitz, who was at her industrious best.
Continually bustling the Swifts into error, the Firebirds carved up on attack, goal attack Amy Wild proving an accomplished back-up for Aiken in stamping an authorative showing.
With Aiken supreme in the air and rattling in the goals for Firebirds, Swifts began to unravel under the intense pressure.
Having a far greater share of the possession as attested by their 33 attempts at goal compared to Swifts 23, an impressive-looking Firebirds swept into the main break with a 29-22 lead.
Looking for a quick fix, Swifts made changes at both ends of the court, the 1.92m Gretel Tippett coming on at goal shoot for Caitlin Thwaites and April Letton replacing Sonia Mkoloma at goalkeeper. In the Firebirds ranks, Ameliaranne Wells took over from the well-performed Wild at goal attack.
It made little difference on the scoreboard, the Firebirds, with their confidence riding high, refused to take their foot off the pedal and continued to press home their dominance. Battling the odds and consigned to chase mode, the Swifts fought hard but could not break down the Firebirds staunch defensive efforts and effective attacking momentum.
Slotting in perfectly with Aiken, Wells ensured the Firebirds went to the last break well placed at 41-32.
– but the sailors praise the new boats
Photo Credit: Dario Belingheri/Bettini Photo
photo David Cannon/Getty images