A fourth consecutive Super Netball final series beckons for Sunshine Coast Lightning after clutch shooting from Steph Wood clinched a thrilling 67-65 victory over the Giants.
- Steph Wood landed a last-gasp super shot to seal the win for the Lightning
- The loss may prove costly for the sixth-placed Giants’ finals hopes
- The Thunderbirds defeated the Magpies 61-49 in their first match at home in Adelaide this season
Wood kept her cool in the dying seconds to nail a match-winning super shot at USC Stadium on the Sunshine Coast to secure the Lightning’s seventh win of the season and hurt the Giants’ top-four ambitions in the process.
The Lightning stay in third position on the ladder following the win, equal with the second-placed NSW Swifts on 28 points and six points behind Melbourne Vixens.
In Sunday’s second match, Adelaide Thunderbirds made a successful return to their home state with a solid 61-49 victory over Collingwood Magpies that maintained their Super Netball finals hopes.
Coming off a 20-goal loss to the Vixens, victory was crucial for the Giants’ semi-final hopes after falling two wins behind the fourth-placed West Coast Fever.
But after struggling to produce her best consistently through the season, Wood stepped up when it mattered most to break Giants hearts at the death.
“We knew it was not going to be an easy game,” Lightning goalkeeper Phumza Maweni said.
“We just needed to step up and make sure we kept the ball in hand and keep the game flowing, we were very hungry for this win.”
The loss, and the Thunderbirds’ victory, means the Giants are in sixth place on the ladder.
The round-five meeting between the Lightning and the Giants was shrouded in controversy after the send-off of Kristiana Manu’a reduced the Giants to just six players for the final nine minutes, with the Lightning storming home to win by one goal.
The rematch remained incident-free but there was no lack of drama as the gritty Giants stayed in the contest with timely long-range shooting.
Jo Harten levelled the scores with 15 seconds to play with her side’s 12th super shot of the match.
Scores were level at 18-all after a tight opening quarter and while the Lightning dominated the time in possession in the second period, they were unable to cash in on the scoreboard.
Super shots from Harten and Kiera Austin cut the Lightning’s half-time advantage to one goal, 32-31.
The third quarter played out in a similar fashion to the second, with the Giants relying on their long-range shooting to reduce a seven-goal deficit to one heading into the final period.
But the big-match experience of championship winners Wood and Karla Pretorius did enough to guide the Lightning home.
Sunshine Coast can seal a semi-final berth on Tuesday night with a win over the Fever at USC Stadium.
The Giants will fight to keep their season alive against the Magpies at the same venue on Wednesday night.
Thunderbirds win in Adelaide
After playing the first nine rounds of the season in Super Netball’s Queensland hub, the Thunderbirds opened a three-match stretch at home in Adelaide with a confidence-building win over the injury-ravaged Magpies.
The Thunderbirds met some stern resistance from the visitors but finished strongly to snap a four-match losing streak and rise to fifth on the ladder, six points behind the Fever.
The attack pairing of South African Lenize Potgieter (41 goals from 46 attempts) and local product Georgie Horjus (12 goals, four super shots) continued to develop with the duo taking charge in the fourth quarter.
“I love it, she’s the one that keeps me calm in the circle,” Potgieter said about her blossoming partnership with 18-year-old Horjus.
“It’s great to work with her, she’s teaching me a lot of new things and I hope I’m helping her along the way as well.”
After recording just four victories in the first three years of Super Netball, the Thunderbirds outscored the bottom-placed Collingwood 18-8 in the final quarter to break through for their fourth win of this season.
With home matches against Queensland Firebirds and the Giants to come, the opportunity is there for coach Tania Obst’s up-and-coming squad to challenge for a top-four finish.