It was experience versus inexperience in a tight contest under the bright lights of the Adelaide Entertainment Centre that saw the Collingwood Magpies topple the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Round 10 of Suncorp Super Netball.
The young Adelaide side challenged the Pies for the first three quarters, maintaining the lead until the final 10 minutes when the home side lost control.
For those opening terms, intense defensive pressure, precision passing and relentless effort from the Thunderbirds left the star-studded Magpies line exposed.
Freedom in their attack line gave the Thunderbirds a strong start as they went up 5-1 in the opening four minutes, prompting the Pies to call an early tactical time out.
Starting in wing attack over vice-captain Chealsea Pitman, Bongi Msomi provided great drive for the Adelaide side struggled to read goal shooter Shimona Nelson’s angles. Charlee Hodges was confident to post early, going three from three to release some of the pressure off Nelson.
After a sluggish start, the Magpies started to find momentum at the halfway mark of the quarter and threatened to steal the lead. Swift ball movement and tough one-on-one marking in defense allowed the Pies to make it a one-goal game with five minutes to go.
Pies’ wing defence Ash Brazil wore Bongi Msomi like a glove, making life hard for the South African from the get go.
Goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld struggled at the post and under immense pressure from Leana DeBruin but Caitlin Thwaites continued to be a reliable force for the Pies. An easy miss directly under the ring from Teague-Neeld saw the Pies’ chance of stealing the bonus point fade away as the Thunderbirds regained possession.
It wasn’t pretty play but the Thunderbirds managed to get to post to take a two-goal lead with just seconds to go in the quarter. They claimed the first bonus point of the game with 13 goals to 12.
Former Thunderbirds captain Erin Bell took to the court for the second quarter, replacing Teague-Neeld who went zero from two in the opening term.
Defensive pressure was undeniable from both sides, with three turnovers in the opening minute. The Thunderbirds came out of the tussle stronger with two early goals before Bell delivered a precision ball to Thwaites to slot their first goal for the quarter.
Adelaide goal keeper Kate Shimmin was relentless from the back, stealing possession for her team multiple times and taking an impressive block over the shot of former teammate Erin Bell. A brief run by the Pies at the five-minute mark saw them close the gap and errors begin to creep into the Thunderbirds’ play.
With nine minutes to go, the Pies took the lead for the first time in the match and Adelaide coach Dan Ryan called a time out.
Former Australian Diamonds’ goal keeper Sharni Layton paid close attention to the young Jamaican in Nelson who remained strong in the air against the pressure.
Two consecutive calls against Pies’ captain Madi Robison allowed the Thunderbirds to take the front with two minutes left in the half.
The home side held strong in the final moments to claim their fourth bonus point for the 2018 season and take the lead 26 to 24 – once again, Tbirds scored 13 goals to the Pies’ 12.
Accuracy was not an issue for the Tbirds in the first half as Nelson sunk 19 of 20 at 95 per cent while Hodges slotted 7 from 7 at 100 per cent. For the Pies, Thwaites was reliable as ever with 20 from 20 at 100 per cent at half time.
After shooting at just 50 per cent in her side’s Round 9 clash against the Fever, Bell delivered 4 from 5 in the second term of this match at 80 per cent.
The Thunderbirds came out of the half time break firing to extend their lead to four goals in the first five minutes. Adelaide captain De Bruin was dominant in defense to give her side multiple chances to score.
Thwaites held strong with 34 from 36 but Bell dropped to 63 per cent with just one goal from three attempts.
Adelaide local Hannah Petty struggled to find front possession with relentless pressure from Kim Ravallion and Brazill.
Layton’s harrowing voice was hard to ignore in the third as she willed her side to claw back the margin.
Nelson was stretched to her limits but it seemed her and Hodges had the ball on a string as the young goal attack had 25 feeds and 20 goal assists in the first three terms, the most of all players.
A slip from Msomi in the final minutes allowed the Pies to steal the third quarter and claim their first bonus point for the match with 15 goals to 14, with the Thunderbirds heading into the final quarter leading by just one goal.
The home side struggled to move the ball forward, allowing the Pies to turn the ball over and take a four-goal lead in the first three minutes. Dan Ryan called an urgent tactical time out and switched Fiona Fowler for Kaitlyn Bryce in the wing defense position.
Things continued to unravel for the Thunderbirds, prompting Dan Ryan to introduce veteran Kiwi recruit Catherine Tuitviti onto the court for the first time in Suncorp Super Netball. She replaced Nelson at goal shooter and opened her account immediately. Vice-captain Chelsea Pitman also took to the court for the first time in the game to replace Msomi.
With seven minutes to go, the Tbirds had scored just 3 goals to the Pies’ 11. The experience of Pitman and Tuivaiti had an immediate impact on Adelaide’s attack line but errors continued to plague them.
After an impressive opening three quarters, the home side struggled their way through the final term despite shooting 48 from 50 goals for the game at 96 per cent.
Pitman gave the ball away twice in a row and the Pies extended their lead to 9 goals with three minutes to go.
Sadly for the Thunderbirds, it seems when they start to stumble they soon fall hard.
In the end, the Pies more than doubled the Thunderbirds to take the quarter 19 to 8 and the game 58-48.
Following the match, Collingwood coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell said it took her side the first two quarters to adjust to the “effective” style of play the Thunderbirds put out.
“We did build throughout the game in regards to our ability to stay on plan and build pressure and it culminated in that last bit when we made better decisions in attack,” she said.
Keppich-Birrell said Erin Bell was brought on after Alice Teague-Neeld struggled over the long reach of the Thunderbirds’ defenders.
Despite falling at the final hurdle, Adelaide coach Dan Ryan said he was so proud of the effort of each and every one of his players.
“The first three quarters was really inspired netball… they were gusty, they stuck to task, were fearless in their approach and as a result we put ourselves in a winning position,” he said.
“It was disappointing to go down like that in the final quarter, but we lacked poise and composure in the start of the fourth and the experience in that Pies line-up capitalised.”
He said Kate Shimmin had thrived in goal keeper during 2018.
“Throughout her career so many people told Kate that she couldn’t be a goal keeper at this level because she was too small but we’ve backed her in from the start,” he said.
“She’s just thrived off the opportunity to play where she’s most comfortable and she’s our most fierce and fighting player.”
On Hodges connection with Nelson, he said the youngsters were “outstanding” on the biggest stage they had ever played on.
“Today showed that when we do bring it, we’re a quality line up,” he said.
“Seeing the progress of the youngsters is something that I’m really proud of every single week and it’s something I’ll keep investing in until my time is up here.”
Collingwood Magpies 58 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 48
(12-13, 24-26, 39-40, 58-48)
Player of the Match: Caitlin Thwaites (Magpies)
Thwaites 50/54 93%
Teague-Neeld 0/2 0%
Bell 8/13 62%
Nelson 32/34 94%
Hodges 11/11 100%
Tuivaiti 5/5 100%
GS Caitlin Thwaites
GA Alice Teague-Neeld
WA Madi Robinson
C Kim Ravaillion
WD Ash Brazill
GD April Brandley
GK Sharni Layton
GS Shimona Nelson
GA Charlee Hodges
WA Bongi Msomi
C Kaitlyn Bryce
WD Fiona Folwer
GD Leana De Bruin
GK Kate Shimmin
Report: Emmalie Belnaves-Gale