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Vixens down Firebirds, go top in netball

The Melbourne Vixens have moved into top spot on the Super Netball ladder after edging past the Queensland Firebirds 66-64 in a thriller at John Cain Arena.

The Vixens, coming off a derby loss to Collingwood, trailed 36-32 at half-time on Saturday and appeared to be frustrated by the third-ranked Firebirds’ stifling all-court defence.

But the home team rallied after the break, closing the gap to one at three-quarter-time before Mwai Kumwenda spearheaded a 5-0 surge in the dying minutes to drag the Vixens across the line.

The win put the Vixens back on top of the ladder, at least until Sunday afternoon when West Coast Fever have the chance to reclaim first position.

“It was hard work to play against those defenders,” said Kumwenda, who overcame a shaky start to finish with 50 goals from 54 attempts.

“In this competition, every team is really hard.

“I’m proud of the girls and how they played today.”

An 8-1 first-quarter run saw the Firebirds, paced by Lara Dunkley’s creativity at wing attack and Gabi Simpson’s quick hands in defence, set the early pace.

Dunkley’s connection with shooter Donnell Wallam continued to cause problems for the Vixens.

Vixens caretaker coach Di Honey moved co-captain Kate Moloney out of the middle and onto the rampant Dunkley as the Firebirds’ lead, which stretched to eight, threatened to blow out.

Kumwenda stemmed some of the bleeding late in the second stanza before firing on all cylinders in the second half, which Queensland started poorly.

The Firebirds committed too many penalties, which aided the Vixens as they mounted their fightback.

Hannah Mundy was injected off the bench and into the centre where she had the better of Queensland skipper Kim Ravaillion as the match wore on, while the Firebirds progressively had no answers for Kumwenda.

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