Shamera Sterling sparkled in a dour exhibition as the Adelaide Thunderbirds posted their first Super Netball victory of the season in a 54-48 win against the Melbourne Vixens at USC Stadium.
The Vixens home game was shifted to neutral territory at the Sunshine Coast and the lack of parochial support perhaps contributed to a match that never reached the heights.
Still, the Thunderbirds should be proud they found some oomph with a 17-goal final quarter when the game was on the line.
The one constant was the timely possession wins from Sterling who finished with seven gains, including three intercepts.
Each time the Vixens threatened to go on a run, the Jamaican defender had a knack for getting her hands to a ball or forcing an error.
“She has an innate ability to get ball when we need it,” Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst said.
“At the end if the Vixens got another two-pointer they’d go on a roll but she was able to stem the flow for us. She was pivotal.”
What had been a close yet scrappy meeting between two of the competition’s battlers tipped marginally in the Thunderbirds favour when Georgie Horjus landed a super goal just seconds before three-quarter time.
Horjus (12 goals at 75 per cent accuracy) and Lenize Potgieter (29/32) held their nerve in the final quarter to steer the Thunderbirds home.
Vixens defender Kadie-Ann Dehaney was just as influential as Sterling but the Victorians could not maintain their defensive intensity across the second half.
The premiers now find themselves on one win after six rounds and are facing another month away from home due to the COVID-19 restrictions in their home state.
“In some ways the situation is not dissimilar to when you’re at the top of the table,” Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said.
“It’s about going back each week and getting better at what you do. That’s the focus whether you’re at the top or the bottom.”
Rookie goaler Rahni Samason showed flashes of the confidence that last week sank the Queensland Firebirds but was kept quiet with 14 goals.
Only two goals separated the competition’s bottom two sides at halftime.
What did shine through was the athleticism and grit shown by the Jamaican defenders at each end of the court.
Vixen Kadie-Ann Dehaney’s first quarter blocked shot on Georgie Horjus set the tone for a fiercely contested half.
Dehaney pulled in two intercepts and two deflections for the half to announce herself at Lenize Potgieter’s chief tormentor.
Sterling was the Thunderbirds’ best chance of winning possession with two first half intercepts.