A hard-working and decisive Melbourne Vixens have got the better of arch-rivals West Coast Fever in a crucial 70-64 Super Netball victory at Perth’s RAC Arena.
It was a thrilling showdown between the competition’s premier teams, with Vixens co-captain Liz Watson dominant as her side claimed top spot on the ladder on Tuesday.
The Vixens have now notched two victories against the Fever this season, with Olivia Lewis restricting Jhaniele Fowler (48 from 51) to less than 50 goals on each occasion.
While still a significant contribution, it is still down on Fowler’s 57-goal average, with Lewis winning the duel against her former team.
The tit-for-tat between Fever captain Courtney Bruce and Vixens spearhead Mwai Kumwenda (44 goals) was another telling match-up.
Kumwenda’s cunning and poise had to be inside Bruce’s head when the Fever defender bickered over the return of the ball to the Vixen in the closing minutes.
The exchange wasted crucial seconds when the Fever could not afford any time lost when they were on the comeback.
Watson ran out a full game at centre, reigniting a combination with wing defender Kate Moloney that first appeared almost a decade ago.
The midcourter finished with 52 feeds and 30 goal assists in her second consecutive player-of-the-match performance.
“That’s massive. To come over here midweek and put in that performance, we’re so proud,” Watson said.
“Kate and I used to have that combo when we first started at the Vixens, it was nice to have centre-wing defence combo with Kate.”
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis threw a bundle of surprises at the Fever and it all worked in the first quarter.
The midcourt trio of Hannah Mundy, Watson and Moloney stunned their hosts with their workrate and decisiveness.
Watson had a stunning first quarter.
The Diamonds skipper ran where she pleased, helping the Vixens to an 11-goal lead as the Fever scrambled for answers.
Lewis had been doing a fine job of containing Fowler but the scoring machine gradually worked her way back into the contest in the second quarter.
With Emma Cosh dragging Vixens defender Jo Weston away from the post, Fowler had more space to exert her influence.
The battle between Kumwenda and Bruce intensified as the match wore on.
Bruce’s strength troubled Kumwenda, who was unable to use her aerial prowess to control the shooting circle.
Bruce grabbed five gains but Kumwenda had the last laugh.