The Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds defeated ladder leaders Giants Netball 56-53 at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre on Friday night to keep their finals hopes alive.
Queensland will be sweating on the result of Collingwood’s clash with West Coast on Saturday night, with a Fever victory required to keep the Firebirds alive in the top four race.
The win against the Giants was the Firebirds’ first against a top four side this season and came off the back of a dynamic first half where they ruffled their opponents with relentless pressure and varied attack.
Captain Gabi Simpson was immense with three intercepts and five deflections, while Caitlyn Nevins, Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett caused havoc with their dynamic exchanges and deliveries to the attacking circle.
The Firebirds got off to a flyer inside the first five minutes, taking an early four goal lead off the back of some impressive defensive work by Simpson and confident shooting from Aiken and Tippett.
While the Giants pushed back to close the margin to two, the Firebirds showed poise to steady the ship defensively and take advantage of two errors under their opponent’s hoop to take the margin out again.
A late rally by the Giants couldn’t topple Queensland, as they held tough to take a 17-15 advantage into quarter time.
An early Simpson deflection and Jo Harten turnover helped bring the margin back out to six for the ladies in purple soon after the quarter time whistle.
The Firebirds’ fluidity and variety in attack was eye-catching, with short, patient build-ups interspersed with athletic aerial raids keep the Giants guessing.
The purple machine continued to roll after a Giants tactical timeout midway through the quarter, extending their lead to nine goals before GWS turned the screws late in the period.
But Queensland again stood tall to consolidate their advantage and go into half-time 31-24 up.
A Firebirds turnover in the opening minute of the third quarter made for a nervy start, but they soon settled to retake control.
Aiken’s form surge continued with some sterling work under the hoop and in the air, while Tippett looked like a player reborn as she confidently shot from distance and drove hard to the baseline.
A late GWS buzzer beater helped close the margin at the final change, but it was the Firebirds who entered the fourth quarter with a 43-37 lead.
Kristina Brice was injected into the fray for the Giants to start the fourth, with Susan Pettit shifted to wing attack for Taylah Davies.
They immediately closed the margin to four and then two, before the Firebirds called a tactical timeout as the tension in the stadium reached boiling point.
But Queensland held strong to notch their first top four win of the season 56-53.