Firebirds beat Lightning in netball derby

·2-min read

The Sunshine Coast Lightning have let slip their chance to grab the Super Netball outright competition lead after falling to a 61-52 Queensland Firebirds ambush at USC Stadium.

Firebird Kim Ravaillion produced a midcourt masterclass to restore faith within the establishment team which had tasted just one win against the Lightning since their introduction in 2017.

The centre's 20 assists and 26 feeds torched three direct opponents but it was her failure to concede a turnover in 60 minutes that underlined her class, and perhaps potential to return to the national team for the first time since 2018.

That she did it against her former understudy, Sunshine Coast's Mahalia Cassidy, must have been particularly satisfying but her coach Megan Anderson insisted Ravaillion's form had not yet peaked.

"She's still building. Defensively I think it was her best game tonight," Anderson said.

"If you ask her she'll say she's still got a bit in the tank."

Firebirds shooters Romelda Aiken (34 goals from 37 attempts) and Gretel Bueta (17) were efficient with every possession.

Cara Koenen sank 36 goals after taking much of the first quarter to get firing.

Back-to-back losses to the Giants presented the Lightning with an opportunity to trample lower-placed opponent go to the top of the table.

Instead, it was the sixth-placed Firebirds who moved like apex predators.

Queensland defenders Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe worried the Lightning out of seven -first-quarter gains to disrupt what has typically been a cohesive attack.

Such was the carnage inflicted by the Firebirds, the Lightning switched to a Plan B midcourt late in the first half when centre Cassidy's high turnover rate could no longer be tolerated.

The sight of Firebirds target Aiken confidently sinking two super shots to end the half must have been deeply unnerving for the hosts who went to the break 14 goals down.

A third centre, Maddy McAuliffe, was deployed in the second half in a bid to rub some of the shine from Ravaillion's game.

Despite suffering from illness during the week, McAuliffe flashed in and out of traffic to provide the midcourt answers the Lightning had been searching for.

With McAuliffe offering spark at both ends of the court, the Lightning carved a 15-goal deficit to trail by just six at three-quarter time.

But for every gain made by the Sunshine Coast there was too often a stray pass or balled spilled out of court.

"We knew what kind of style they play and we let them play," Sunshine Coast Kylee Byrne said.

"Instead of playing our style and doing what we've done well, we went away from that and became cautious and apprehensive."