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Swifts draw trans-Tasman netball thriller

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/07/2016
Caitlin Thwaites © AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts Caitlin Thwaites

The NSW Swifts missed the chance to seal top spot in the trans-Tasman netball competition's Australian Conference on Saturday when they drew 59-all with the Southern Steel in Sydney.

In the final round of the regular season, the Swifts could've claimed the minor premiership with victory at Sydney Olympic Park.

However the stalemate now opens the door for second-placed Queensland, who will lock in the No.1 Australian ranking for the finals with a win over West Coast on Sunday.

The Swifts' scoring was shared between Caitlin Thwaites (29 goals) and Susan Pettitt (30 goals) who both converted at an impressive 94 per cent.

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (50 goals from 52 attempts) was again a standout for the Steel.

The Invercargill-based team finished the regular season by far and away the best of the New Zealand Conference, unbeaten over 13 matches with 11 wins and two draws.

The Swifts burst out of the blocks, banking a 16-13 first-quarter lead with a strong defensive display from Laura Langman, Maddy Turner and Sharni Layton.

The Steel found their timing and rhythm in the second stanza as midcourters Shannon Francois and Gina Crampton found the target of towering shooter Fowler-Reid while defenders Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Jane Watson got their hands on more turnover ball.

The Steel finished with a late surge of four straight goals to leave the scores tied up at 29-all at the main break.

Swifts captain Kimberlee Green was injected for Stephanie Woods for the second half but it was the visitors who stole an early march to build a five-goal buffer.

Just as quickly, the Swifts came surging back, lifting their flow and accuracy on attack as a goal on the stroke of three-quarter time gave the Steel a slim 45-44 lead at the last break.

In a frantic final quarter, the Steel couldn't find enough to claim their first win in Sydney.

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