Torrid defence all over the court from both teams saw the game between the Giants and Melbourne Vixens go down to the wire late.
The Vixens surprised and excited many fans when they added Renae Ingles as a training partner to the team. Illness from their usual wing defence Chloe Watson saw Ingles come into the match day ten.
Khao Watts was given the wing defence bib to start for the Vixens. Serena Guthrie stamped her authority mere seconds after the whistle had gone immediately winning possession off the second pass of the game.
Communication breakdowns in attack for the Vixens in the first few minutes saw several uncharacteristic turnovers and the Giants capitalised, taking the early lead. The Vixens soon got back on equal footing though thanks to some outstanding defensive work from Emily Mannix and Jo Weston in the circle.
The Giants were out of sorts in the first quarter, with the passage into the circle never coming easily for them. The feeders were not easily finding Jo Harten or Susan Pettitt. Mannix read the ball well coming in for an impressive intercept when Guthrie sent a ball swinging across the circle.
Whether this struggle to get the ball into the circle quickly was due to the change-up in the shooting end with Harten in goal attack rather than her preferred goal shooter position, this spelled dangerous signs early for the Giants. Thanks to the stellar defensive work of Guthrie, they went into the first break down by just one goal.
The unusual attacking combination for the Giants began to pay off in the second quarter with constant switching in attack confusing the Vixens defence and opening passages into the circle. Kim Green picked up her work rate feeding her shooters almost twice as many times as she had in the first quarter.
The teams stayed on even footing for much of the quarter, with neither willing to give an inch. The Vixens, even when they lost the ball, were usually able to win it back. Mwai Kumwenda was having an outstanding game shooting at 100%, but wasn’t at her usual aerial self against the defence of Sam Poolman.
In their defensive end, the Giants confused the space with defensive switches and the high ball into Mwai Kumwenda wasn’t coming with the same frequency. Kate Moloney was called for held ball outside the circle at least twice in the quarter while trying to force the ball into the shooters.
Guthrie and Jamie-Lee Price were disrupting the circle edge feed as well and picked up off-target passes. The Vixens were having a forgettable quarter and the Giants soared ahead to win the quarter by five and scored six of the last eight goals going into the main break.
The third quarter saw both coaches try to change things up. Julie Fitzgerald brought on Kristiana Manu’a for Poolman, a move which is becoming habitual for the GIANTS. Manu’a was unable to match the defensive prowess of Poolman and was guilty of some poor passes after winning the ball in the defensive end.
Simone McKinnis also attempted to resolve some of the woes in the midcourt by putting Moloney at wing attack and Liz Watson at centre.
The Giants continued to make it difficult for the Vixens’ shooters, but Kumwenda seemed to have a magnetic connection with the goal. Bulley and Manu’a used the same tactic as in the second quarter, pushing both shooters to the top of the circle. Kumwenda was not to be swayed though, using her huge split and exceptional footwork to get closer to the goal.
The Vixens started the quarter well, making some inroads into the Giants lead. With eight minutes to go, Ingles came on at wing defence, with Watts going to the bench and the Giants switched Pettitt for Kristina Brice.
The rush of turnovers continued with both teams losing possession quickly after winning the ball. The Vixens midcourt still seemed out of sorts with Kate Moloney coughing up the ball four times throughout the quarter and struggling to find form against Price, who wasn’t giving her an inch. Liz Watson was feeding into the circle brilliantly for the bulk of the game, but her combination with Moloney was not at its normal level.
After the Giants went out to a six-goal lead, the Vixens called a timeout. Moloney went to the bench with Watts coming on at wing attack. The Vixens continued to struggle for the last part of the quarter, but did score off their own centre pass. They went into the final break down by six goals.
The formula for the final quarter was simple. The Vixens needed to turn over the ball three times and not allow the Giants to score off their centre pass. But the Giants could not be so easily knocked over and the Vixens did not look like they had the consistency to topple them.
Kate Moloney returned to the court at wing attack, replacing Khao Watts. The Vixens started to come back at the Giants in the second half of the quarter. The defence from the Vixens was tough to beat and the Giants were resorting to long lobbing passes from one side of the court to the other. After a break with six minutes to go, the Giants began trying to slow the ball down.
Harten was a settler in the Giants attack, shooting a long-range goal with the Vixens coming home hard with four minutes to go. With just under three minutes to go, Mannix picked up a crucial rebound, but it was turned over in the midcourt with Price picking up an important intercept.
The Vixens managed to get the deficit back to two but rushed their own centre pass up the court and were unable to convert as the Giants walked away as seven goal winners.
Giants 58 def Melbourne Vixens 51
(14-15, 31-27, 45-39, 58-51)
Player of the match: Serena Guthrie (Giants)
Pettitt 17/22 77%
Harten 24/28 86%
Brice 17/20 85%
Kumwenda 38/38 100%
Philip 13/19 68%
Starting line ups
WA L. Watson
Changes: Q3 Moloney WA, Watson C, Ingles WD then Watts WA, Q4 Moloney WA
Changes: Q3 Manu’a GK, Brice GS, Q4 Poolman GK