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Super Netball: West Coast Fever fall to first loss of season as Melbourne Vixens claim 76-65 win at RAC Arena

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Ben SmithThe West Australian
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The Fever have been beaten.
Camera IconThe Fever have been beaten. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

West Coast Fever’s unbeaten start to the Super Netball season is over as their old nemesis Melbourne Vixens returned to haunt them, securing a 76-65 win at RAC Arena.

In front of 11,119 fervent fans — a regular season record home crowd for the team — the Vixens played spoilers to inflict a first loss of the season upon the Fever.

Despite leading after the first term, the Fever found themselves overrun by their rivals as Melbourne produced a precise performance all over the court.

Sophie Garbin and Kiera Austin proved a deadly duo for Melbourne in attack as they shot lights out, while Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard was held to 45 goals.

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PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Kiera Austin of the Vixens in action during the round seven Super Netball match between West Coast Fever and Melbourne Vixens at RAC Arena, on May 26, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Camera IconKiera Austin of the Vixens in action. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

However, the loss was not enough to knock the Fever out of top spot, with the Vixens moving into second but unable to overtake their opponents due to an inferior percentage.

The visitors led early and it was clear the Sunday Aryang and Kadie-Ann Dehaney had their hands full in the back-court, with Garbin and Austin meeting the defensive duo’s challenge and helping the Vixens snare an early 7-4 advantage.

But the hosts roared into the lead late in the first term as Shanice Beckford knocked down four Super Shots to bring an already vocal crowd to fever pitch, the GA showing the dead-eyedness of a sniper as they led the Vixens 22-19 at first change.

The Vixens rebounded after the break as they overhauled the Fever’s lead and began to play the game on their terms, embarking on a 14-8 run to start while staying disciplined with the ball in hand.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard of the Fever stretches for the ball during the round seven Super Netball match between West Coast Fever and Melbourne Vixens at RAC Arena, on May 26, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Camera IconJhaniele Fowler-Nembhard of the Fever stretches for the ball. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Up the other end, the Fever turned the ball over six times in the second term compared to just two on Melbourne’s behalf as the goals dried up slightly.

Despite super shots to Beckford and Olivia Wilkinson for the hosts, the Vixens stuck to their guns as Garbin and Austin both shot 100 per cent in the second term to steer their side to a 42-36 lead at half-time.

The Fever drew within four points of the Vixens early in the third, but every time they threatened to reel in their opponents, Melbourne kept them at arm’s length.

Turnovers once again proved a problem for the Fever and their desperation proved to be in contrast to the cool-headed Vixens, who were clinical in the attacking third and pushed the lead out to 59-48 at the final change.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 26: Alice Teague-Neeld of the Fever i aduring the round seven Super Netball match between West Coast Fever and Melbourne Vixens at RAC Arena, on May 26, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Camera IconAlice Teague-Neeld of the Fever. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

The Fever were intent on coming home with a wet sail and had managed to reduce the deficit to 66-59 with a little over six minutes to go.

Sensing a shift in momentum, the crowd turned the volume up to 11 and a pair of Fowler-Nembhard Super Shots made it a six-goal game with three minutes to go, but the Vixens were able to see off the late rally.

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