Melbourne Vixens beat Queensland Firebirds 66-64 in Super Netball thriller

The Melbourne Vixens have taken the provisional top spot on the Super Netball ladder after overcoming the Queensland Firebirds 66-64 at John Cain Arena.

The Vixens, after a derby loss to the Collingwood Magpies, trailed 36-32 at half-time on Saturday and looked frustrated with the stifling all-court defense of the third-ranked Firebirds.

But the home side rallied after the break, closing the gap to one point three quarters from time before Mwai Kumwenda led a 5-0 push in the final minutes to drag the Vixens across the line.

The victory put the Vixens at the top of the ladder, at least until Sunday afternoon, when West Coast Fever have the chance to reclaim the top position when they face the Magpies.

“It was hard work playing against these defenders,” said Kumwenda, who overcame a shaky start to finish with 51 goals from 55 attempts.

“In this competition, every team is really tough.

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

An 8-1 run in the first quarter saw the Firebirds, paced by the creativity of Lara Dunkley up front on the wings and the quick hands of Gabi Simpson on defense, set the tone early on.

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

Vixens interim coach Di Honey moved co-captain Kate Moloney out of the middle and onto the crawling Dunkley as the Firebirds’ lead – which had stretched to eight points – threatened to explode.

Kumwenda stemmed some of the bleeding late in the second quarter before firing full throttle in the third quarter, which the Firebirds got off to a bad start.

The Firebirds took too many penalties, which helped the Vixens as they mounted their fightback.

Hannah Mundy was injected off the bench and into the center where she got the better of Firebirds skipper Kim Ravaillion as the game wore on, while the visitors gradually had no answer for Kumwenda.

AAP/ABC

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