Lightning strike after win over Swifts

Finals netball is within reach for the Sunshine Coast Lightning after their dominant 61-51 Suncorp Super Netball win over the NSW Swifts on Saturday.

Sitting on the edge of the top four prior to this game, but equal with the fourth-placed Firebirds, the Lightning trampled the Swifts to claim all eight competition points.

If the Firebirds can’t do a similar demolition job against the Thunderbirds tomorrow, the Lightning will finish the round in the top four.

The defence of the Lightning did the job at USC Stadium. Karla Pretorius finished with six intercepts, Madeline McAuliffe was a brick wall in the second half and centre Laura Scherian was the Nissan MVP to complete the defensive triumvirate.

The Swifts were competitive and fought to the final whistle, but they were left to rue a number of missed opportunities to score off turnovers.

The last time the Swifts tasted Suncorp Super Netball success was back in round seven when they beat the Lightning. That win was built off a 19-9 fast start that the Sunshine Coast could not recover from.

The Lightning could not afford to surrender a start like that again here and came out of the blocks full of energy and intensity which translated to scoreboard success – the home side taking an early 3-1 lead.

The circle defence of Geva Mentor and Karla Pretorius was making life difficult for the Swifts, but they began to find ways in to attack the goal – their variety allowing them to push out to an 8-6 lead midway through the quarter.

Sunshine Coast coach Noeline Taurua called her charges in for fresh orders and the defensive lockdown was back on, the Lightning arrested the run of goals and re-claiming the lead once more.

It wasn’t the most intense of first quarters, as both sides squared each other up and tried to work out ways to break down the opposition defence. And in the end, it was the Lightning who claimed the first bonus point, taking a 17-13 lead into quarter time.

The Swifts attack began to stutter, failing to cash in off turnovers and the Lightning marched on to stretch the lead out to 21-14.

That lead pushed out to as much as 11, although the Swifts did fight back through the quarter with young shooter Sophie Garbin brought on to change up the attack.

It was an arm wrestle for the most part, but the fast start gave the Lightning their second bonus point and a 31-26 lead at halftime.

The Swifts needed to improve their shooting, with both Helen Housby and Garbin sitting at a clip of about 70 per cent. Coach Briony Akle has not been reluctant to shuffle her roster all season and made a host of changes for the third quarter.

That included the injection of English Rose Natalie Haythornthwaite and young defender Kate Eddy. The intensity ramped up in the term as the two teams traded blows and Housby found her radar to keep the Swifts in the match.

It was the Lightning once again who took the bonus point, though, heading into the final term with a seven-goal advantage. The Swifts mixed up their roster again, but the Lightning again charged out of the blocks with a fast start to set up the win.

Q1: Lightning 17 v Swifts 13
Q2: Lightning 14 v Swifts 13
Q3: Lightning 14 v Swifts 12
Q4: Lightning 16 v Swifts 13

Suncorp Super Netball premiership points
Lightning 8
Swifts 0

Lightning shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 42/46
Steph Wood 19/22

Swifts shooting statistics
Sam Wallace 16/17
Helen Housby 23/29
Sophie Garbin 12/15

Lightning starting seven
GS: Caitlin Bassett, GA: Steph Wood, WA: Kelsey Browne, C: Laura Scherian, WD: Madeline McAuliffe, GD: Karla Pretorius, GK: Geva Mentor

Swifts shooting statistics
GS: Sam Wallace, GA: Helen Housby, WA: Paige Hadley, C: Maddy Proud, WD: Abbey McCulloch, GD: Maddy Turner, GK: Sarah Klau

Nissan MVP: Laura Scherian