Lightning strikes in Battle of the Bruce
THE Sunshine Coast Lightning bolted to a 71-56 victory over an under-manned Queensland Firebirds in Suncorp Super Netball's "Battle of the Bruce" at Boondall on Sunday.
The Firebirds suffered a major blow before the first pass when captain and Australian Diamonds vice-captain Gabi Simpson was a late withdrawal with a groin injury.
Simpson suffered the adductor problem at training and failed a fitness test before the match to leave the still-winless Firebirds short of defensive grunt, inspiration and on-court communication.
And the Lightning took full advantage, taking home seven out of a possible eight competition points in front of 3561 spectators at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
They outscored the Firebirds by six goals in the first term and by five goals in the second term to force Queensland into desperate measures like playing goalshooting star Romelda Aiken at goalkeeper.
Aiken was switched to defence - a role she has filled for Jamaica in the past - to counter the considerable influence of the Sunshine Coast's prolific goalshooter Peace Proscovia who finished with 53 goals from 55 attempts.
With Aiken in the last line of defence, the Firebirds won the third quarter but the Lightning still enjoyed a nine-goal cushion going into the final term.
Steph Wood had 18 goals from 30 attempts for the rampant Lightning while Gretel Tippett led the way for the Firebirds with a perfect 40 goals from 40 attempts. Aiken had 10 goals before being switched to defence.
The victory took the Sunshine Coast's record in the Queensland derby to four wins and a draw from six meetings with the Firebirds who expect Simpson to return for the Round 4 clash with the Giants.
The Lightning crashed its way to a 14-goal buffer late in the second quarter but the Firebirds stemmed the bleeding just before the buzzer somewhat to trail 39-28 at halftime.
The Sunshine Coast punished the Firebirds who committed 16 sloppy turnovers in the first half with Lightning vice-captain Karla Pretorius grabbing five intercepts by the main break.
And when they created those extra chances, the Lightning attack end converted ruthlessly after dynamic ball movement through the middle of the court.
Proscovia was a tower of strength under the post while Wood was deadly from long range to stretch the Firebirds defence to breaking point.
The Lightning led 21-15 at quarter-time and the Firebirds did well to still be in touch given their clunky start.