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Qld Firebirds into netball title match

AAP logoAAP 24/07/2016 By Matt Harris

The Queensland Firebirds are one win away from becoming the trans-Tasman netball league's only back-to-back champions after reaching their fourth straight grand final in a thriller.

The Firebirds booked a spot in the title decider with a nail-biting 67-64 win over New Zealand side Southern Steel in Brisbane on Sunday after trailing in the final quarter.

They will host the winner of the second semi-final between Waikato-BOP Magic and the NSW Swifts to be played in Hamilton, New Zealand on Monday.

Having defeated an understrength Firebirds in Round 11, the gallant Steel held the lead for long periods of Sunday's clash but Queensland's class told as they pulled away in the closing minutes then hung on.

There was little splitting the teams in a high-scoring contest, with Jamaican internationals Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid trading goals at either end.

But a seemingly nervous performance from home team goal shooter Aiken, who finished with 57 goals from 68 attempts against Fowler-Reid's 51 from 52, gave the visitors extra hope.

The Steel led by three at halftime but the Firebirds were regaining a foothold due to some dynamic passing by MVP Kim Ravaillion, Caitlyn Nevins and Gretel Tippett.

The Queenslanders remained patient with the ball despite facing some rugged defence and levelled the scores at 45-all three minutes before the final change.

Trailing by two heading into the last quarter, the Brisbane crowd pulsated with support for their home-town heroes as the lead shifted back and forth.

And the Firebirds responded, finding their best to pry open a seven-goal advantage with six minutes remaining, refusing to let go the lead thereafter.

Having played in their fair share of close contests, including last season's one-goal grand final thriller against the Swifts, Firebirds captain Laura Geitz praised her side's composure under extreme pressure.

"The Steel played quality netball and they're a side who can score quickly," Geitz said.

"We made the most of our little opportunities and there were some scary moments there, but the self-belief amongst our playing group shows we are resilient and can go to the final whistle."

Geitz wasn't about to pick a winner in the second semi-final, with the Magic having toppled the Steel last week to win the New Zealand conference title.

"That match will be a tight tussle and there's no doubt either side is a tough opposition to have next Sunday in the grand final," she said.

"We'll soak up this moment and reflect on what we've achieved then on Tuesday it's back to the drawing board to put ourselves in the best position to win the grand final."

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