MATCH REPORT: Pies rally late and almost pinch victory from Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Defending champions Sunshine Coast Lightning have survived a furious Collingwood Magpies comeback with a drought-breaking 52-50 Suncorp Super Netball win at Margaret Court Arena.
The Lightning led by eight heading into the final term and had won all three previous quarters to have the game in their control.
But the Magpies stormed back to within two goals in the last quarter with a 15-9 run.
Collingwood had several chances to close that gap even further but were unable to complete what would have been a memorable come-from-behind win.
Both sides were desperate for a win, with the Lightning starting the season 0-3, while the Magpies had only last weekends victory over the Thunderbirds to their name.
The Lightning came into the match without coach Noeline Taurua, who returned to New Zealand to be with her ill father. Assistant coach Kylee Byrnestepped in, while development coach Christine Voge moved into the assistant role.
The tone of the match was set early as Geva Mentor and Caitlin Thwaites collided heavily contesting the ball, both hitting the court but returning to their feet to play on.
The defensive efforts from both sides made goals hard to come by, with seven turnovers and three missed goals in the opening minutes, as both sides jostled for ascendancy through physicality. That showed on the scoreboard, with the two sides locked at 4-4 midway through the first quarter.
That was the theme for the whole term, with both sides getting their noses in front at different times. But it was the Sunshine Coast who claimed the bonus point with a slender 11-10 lead at quarter time.
Erin Bell struggled to convert for the Magpies in the first term, with Alice Teague-Neeld brought into the goal attack position to replace her.
But as the Lightning’s Karla Pretorius hauled in her fifth intercept for the game, the Sunshine Coast extended their lead to 14-11.
It was a genuine battle of attrition, with the turnover count almost exceeding the total goals in the game during the second quarter. The Lightning ground out a four-goal lead on their way to claiming their second bonus point and a 26-23 halftime advantage following a late Caitlin Thwaites goal for the Magpies.
The Magpies needed a spark, and injected Kim Ravaillion into centre just before halftime and brought Bell back into the attack after the break. But it was the Lightning who started the stronger, going on a 3-1 run and pushing the lead out to 29-24. That prompted the Magpies to move Matilda Garrett into defence with Diamond April Brandley given a spell on the bench.
But the Sunshine Coast just kept rolling forward and went into the final quarter leading by eight goals, before the Magpies mounted their charge.
Despite the final scoreline, Magpies coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell said she was proud of her team for their fourth-quarter fight back.
“There were some really good runs for us, and then we’d just get broken off on the fourth or the fifth goal in that run.
"That swing of momentum is massive in this league at the moment.
"We have to get better at controlling it and pushing it in our direction."
Suncorp Super Netball premiership points
Magpies shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites 36/41
Erin Bell 14/20
Lightning shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 37/37
Steph Wood 15/22
Magpies starting seven – GS: Caitlin Thwaites, GA: Erin Bell, WA: Madi Robinson, C: Shae Brown, WD: Ash Brazill, GD: April Brandley, GK: Sharni Layton
Lightning starting seven – GS: Caitlin Bassett, GA: Steph Wood, WA: Kelsey Browne, C: Laura Scherian, WD: Madeline McAuliffe, GD: Madeline McAuliffe, GK: Madeline McAuliffe
Match MVP: Caitlin Bassett