The match between the two early competition favourites lived up to all expectations and with so much on the line both sides gave the contest everything.
But the win and a place in next Monday night’s preliminary final went to the Thunderbirds who set the ETSA Park crowd alight with a dramatic fightback.
Adelaide captain and centre Natalie Von Bertouch played one of the best matches of her career as she threw herself into every contest and flatly refused to give up on the possibility of victory.
The Vixens` chances were boosted early with the inclusion of Natasha Chokljat in the starting line-up and they began the game in superb touch, playing at great pace and slotting the opening five goals of the game.
The home side appeared distinctly nervous, especially in the goal circle where shooter Kate Beveridge, making her finals debut, missed her first four attempts to post. It took the Thunderbirds five minutes before they put a goal on the score sheet.
Vixens goal attack Sharelle McMahon was at her brilliant best early, twice turning the ball over in defence and nailing all of her nine first quarter attempts. Her trademark pace caused havoc for the Thunderbirds defensive line with goal defence Bianca Reddy in chasing the Australian captain.
The Vixens mid-courters Wendy Jacobson and Chokljat supplied great ball to their circle, where young gun Caitlin Thwaites landed shots from long range. Their efforts helped Vixens to a comfortable 16-8 lead at the first break.
Thunderbirds coach Jane Woodlands immediately made changes, giving Mo`onia Gerrard the task of taking on the destructive McMahon and moving Reddy to the wing. The move worked, and Gerrard ignited the home side to a remarkable second term recovery.
The Vixens seemed to stop in their tracks as the Thunderbirds pounced. Adelaide wing attack Emily Beaton took the direct approach to the circle, sending several long balls into Beveridge who began to find her range and match Bianca Chatfield in the air.
The home side made swift inroads on the score board and trimmed the deficit back to three. For the Vixens Julie Prendergast continued to limit the productivity of Adelaide goal attack Natalie Medhurst who shot an uncharacteristic 58 per cent for the first half.
The home side took advantage of several errors by the Vixens attack and, buoyed by strong home crowd support, found top gear late in the term. Beveridge appeared composed and in control as the Thunderbirds won the quarter 16-8 to lock up the scores at 24-all at the main break.
Adelaide made the better start in the second half, scoring the first two goals before the Vixens responded with the next six in succession. The momentum began to shift back to the visitors with Thwaites on target in the circle and McMahon, on perfect stats, keeping Gerrard busy.
At the other end Prendergast continued to keep Medhurst quiet, so much so it took the Australian shooter until the final five minutes to put up her first goal of the quarter. At this point it was von Bertouch`s never-say-die attitude that kept the home side in touch and in contention, sparking yet another Adelaide surge.
The Adelaide captain scrounged several crucial pick ups on defence and when Medhurst nailed four goals in a row to bring her side within a goal of the Vixens. Thwaites scored one more for the stanza to push the Melbourne team out to a 38-36 lead going into the final term.
Again it was the home side that jumped the gun in the final quarter, scoring the first three goals to take the lead. The two teams traded goals, but at the nine-minute mark the Thunderbirds got a vital break from a Vixens error. A clutch shot from Medhurst gave the Thunderbirds the upper hand and control of the match.
In the wilderness for much of the game, Medhurst showed her class in the last quarter, driving the circle and finishing off despite the immense pressure exerted by the Vixens defenders.
The Vixens had their chances but wasted them with simple passing errors and missed shots. A torrid final few moments from Von Bertouch and Gerrard kept the Vixens at bay and completed a remarkable five-goal victory for the Thunderbirds.
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