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MELBOURNE VIXENS (50) DEFEAT ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS (43)

The Melbourne Vixens have found an extra gear when it mattered most to grind out a tough 50-43 victory over the Adelaide Thunderbirds.The Vixens broke away in the fourth quarter of a rugged defensive battle at Nissan Arena to retain top spot on the ladder at the midway point of the season.

Adelaide stunned the Vixens with a final quarter flurry to pull off an upset victory in round four but Melbourne took their revenge by dominating the fourth period 14-7 on Wednesday night after scores were level at 36-36.

Goal keeper Emily Mannix completed an outstanding four-quarter performance with eight intercepts, falling one short of equalling her league record for intercepts in a game, to go with 10 deflections.

“It was definitely a tough match. Thunderbirds have been playing some really good netball and credit to them, they brought it to us again today,” Mannix said after the Vixens held on for their sixth win of the season.

The Vixens join the NSW Swifts with a 6-1 record but hold a superior percentage, setting up a blockbuster clash against the defending champions on Saturday.

The first half turned into a battle of the goal keepers with Mannix starring for the Vixens and Shamera Sterling continuing her stellar form despite receiving attention for an ankle problem late in the opening quarter.

Adelaide overcame a slow start to build a five-goal lead thanks to a 12-3 burst to close the opening quarter, Lenize Potgieter and Georgie Horjus each shooting with 100 per cent accuracy.

Mwai Kumwenda joined Caitlin Thwaites in the goal circle as the Vixens looked for answers, the attacking combination doing enough to earn a narrow second-quarter win but Adelaide enjoyed a 24-20 edge at the main break.

Melbourne fought their way to the front with a run of five unanswered goals in the third quarter, Liz Watson coming into the game after a quiet first half, but the Thunderbirds responded to level the scores ahead of the crucial final quarter.

But the Vixens’ experience shone through as Mannix and Kate Moloney each won turnovers, allowing Thwaites and Tegan Philip to combine for the first seven goals as Adelaide imploded.

The defeat left the Thunderbirds out of the top four with an important meeting with the Queensland Firebirds ahead on Sunday.

Score breakdown
Q1: Thunderbirds 14 v Vixens 9
Q2: Thunderbirds 10 v Vixens 11
Q3: Thunderbirds 12 v Vixens 16
Q4: Thunderbirds 7 v Vixens 14

Nissan Player of The Match – Emily Mannix (Melbourne Vixens)

Thunderbirds shooting statistics
Lenize Potgieter: Total points – 29 G1 29/31 (94%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Georgie Horjus: Total points – 10 G1 8/11 (86%) G2 1/2 (50%)
Sasha Glasgow: Total points – 4 G1 2/2 (75%) G2 1/2 (50%)

Vixens shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites: Total points – 30 G1 30/31 (97%) G2 0/1 (0%)
Tegan Philip: Total points – 14 G1 14/21 (66%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Mwai Kumwenda: Total points – 6 G1 6/6 (100%) G2 0/0 (0%)

Thunderbirds starting seven: GS – Lenize Potgieter GA – Georgie Horjus WA – Chelsea Pitman C – Maisie Nankivell WD – Shadine Van Der Merwe GD – Layla Guscoth GK – Shamera Sterling

Firebirds starting seven: GS – Caitlin Thwaites GA – Tegan Philip WA – Liz Watson C – Kate Moloney WD – Kate Eddy GD – Jo Weston GK – Emily Mannix