Fowler-Nembhard outgunned as West Coast Fever suffer first loss of season to Melbourne Vixens

By Sports Desk May 26, 2024
Fowler-Nembhard outgunned as West Coast Fever suffer first loss of season to Melbourne Vixens Suncorp Super Netball

In a highly anticipated top-of-the-table clash, the previously unbeaten West Coast Fever succumbed to their first loss of the season, falling 76-65 to the Melbourne Vixens at RAC Arena on Sunday.

Despite an impressive performance from Jhanielle Fowler-Nembhard, who scored 41 goals from 43 attempts, the Fever were unable to overcome the combined efforts of the Vixens’ Sophie Garbin and Kiera Austin, who scored 45 and 22 goals respectively. The Fever’s defeat came before their largest ever home crowd of more than 11,000 fans.

The Melbourne Vixens arrived in Perth determined to bounce back from their tough loss to the Sunshine Coast Lightning in Round Six. Their hunger to dethrone the undefeated Fever was evident from the opening whistle.

The Vixens executed a flawless game plan, capitalizing on uncharacteristic errors from the Fever. Defensive stars Emily Mannix and Rudi Ellis were instrumental in shutting down Fowler-Nembhard, while Kiera Austin’s exceptional performance in the GA position proved pivotal in securing the victory. Austin’s impressive stats—104.5 Nissan Net Points, 16 goal assists, 17 center pass receives, 22 feeds, and shooting at an impressive 95 per cent, underscored her critical role in the triumph.

“We worked really hard in training this week. I think we were all a bit disappointed in what we wanted to put out there (last week against the Lightning), and when you do the work, the results come,” said MVP Austin post-match.

From the start, the Vixens set the tone with clever play and speedy ball movement. Emily Mannix made a statement early with a spectacular intercept and multiple deflections, while Kiera Austin was strong against Sunday Aryang, scoring nine from 10 in the opening quarter. Despite Fran Williams’ electric defense for the Fever, which initially helped them to a 22-19 lead at quarter time, the Vixens’ resilience shone through.

A terrific second-quarter surge saw the Vixens seize control, with Austin continuing her dominant performance, amassing 44.5 Nissan Net Points for the quarter. Austin and Garbin executed flawless screens and rotations, keeping the Fever defenders on their toes. Emily Mannix and Rudi Ellis were clinical in defense, forcing turnovers and ultimately sending Shanice Beckford to the bench. By half-time, the Vixens held a six-goal lead (42-36).

In the second half, the Fever showed renewed vigor, lifting their pressure and chipping away at the scoreboard. However, the Vixens remained composed, sticking to their game plan and gradually widening their lead. Garbin’s seamless play and Austin’s consistent feeding under the post left the Fever’s defense in disarray. The Vixens’ defensive pressure disrupted the Fever's attacking flow, and despite intense collisions and physical play, they maintained their lead, heading into the final quarter with an 11-point advantage.

The Fever made several changes in a bid to orchestrate a comeback in the final quarter, but the Vixens' starting lineup remained steadfast. The Fever managed to narrow the gap with clutch Super Shots from Fowler-Nembhard, but the Vixens’ composure and Garbin’s offensive rebounds extended their lead.





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    The 26-goal victory –Thunderbirds’ widest margin so far this season –propelled them into second position on 32 points, same as West Coast Fever, but with a better goal difference of 93 goals greater than their conceded total. Melbourne Vixens (36 points) remain in pole position.

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    Another Jamaican Shimona Jok led Mavericks’ efforts with 25 goals from 28 attempts, as Eleanor Cardwell (10 goals from 13 attempts) and Gabrielle Sinclair (four goals from seven attempts) offered support.

    Horjus was on top of her game across all four quarters, finishing with 116 Nissan Net Points, while Sterling-Humphrey (106 NNP), who was briefly sidelined after taking a knock to the face, and Wilson (77.5 NNP) delivered standout individual performances.

    Adelaide Thunderbirds celebrate their win.

    The Mavericks were more spirited at the start, as Jok scored three unanswered goals, before Sterling-Humphrey raked in two gains, two intercepts and a deflection in the first term alone, to bring Thunderbirds back into the contest. Aiken-George was prolific on the scoreboard for the Thunderbirds in a tightly contested and physical quarter, which they won 15-14.

    The Thunderbirds maintained the momentum in the second quarter, courtesy of brisk goals from Frew and Aiken-George inside the opening minutes.

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