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Vixens victory wins play-off spot

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/07/2016

Melbourne Vixens are through to the trans-Tasman netball league play-offs after downing Central Pulse 66-53 in Wellington on Monday.

Going into the final match of the regular season, the equation was simple for the Vixens: a win would secure third place and an elimination final against the NSW Swifts on Sunday, while a loss would allow West Coast Fever to sneak through on a fractionally superior goal difference.

Despite missing shooter Karyn Bailey, ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Vixens never missed a beat as 19-year-old rookie Emma Ryde slotted in smoothly at the back.

The 1.97m shooter shot 52 from 56, providing an outstanding target for her midcourters and combining well with hard-working goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld (13 from 14).

The Vixens, who had pounded the Pulse 64-40 in their opening match of the season, were ruthless from the outset in converting their turnovers but could only take a 17-14 lead into the first break.

They extended that margin in the second spell to lead 33-26 at halftime, centre Liz Watson and wing attack Madi Robinson influential in setting up their shooters with quality, well-timed ball.

Pulse circle defenders Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka worked their way into the game, and the home team's scrappy through-court defence began to generate turnover ball.

But a lack of accuracy in the attacking third, where the Pulse sorely missed the calmness of injured centre Elias Scheres, too often allowed the Vixens to grab possession back.

They won the third quarter 14-10 to lead 47-36 going into the final stanza, and looked comfortable in controlling the last quarter 19-17 to wrap up the win.

On the plus side for the Pulse, 18-year-old shooter Maia Wilson wound up an outstanding breakthrough season in style, holding her own against English international Geva Mentor to sink 36 from 40 at 90 per cent accuracy.

Former Silver Ferns goal attack Ameliaranne Wells also impressed in her second-half appearance with 11 from 13, and was particularly effective from long range.

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