Austin saves Vixens with another game-winner
Kiera Austin has delivered again for the Melbourne Vixens, sinking another game-winning two-point goal after the siren to defeat Sunshine Coast Lightning 62-61 and keep last season's grand finalists on track for another Super Netball finals appearance
The Lightning were on the verge of a famous comeback at UniSC Arena on Sunday after Steph Wood drained five Super shots in the fourth quarter to help the home side recover from a 10-goal deficit to take the lead with 45 seconds to play.
But in a carbon copy of round eight's last-gasp victory over West Coast Fever, the Vixens worked the ball to the goal circle in the closing moments and Austin cooly slotted a penalty shot from two-point range after time had expired to hand the Vixens their third win on the trot.
The result sees the Vixens move three wins clear of the fifth-placed Lightning and establish a clear divide between the top four teams and the rest of the competition with five rounds remaining.
"That game was very hard but I'm just proud of the girls, and that Kiera (took) that shot and we won the game," Vixens goaler Mwai Kumwenda said after handing Austin the responsibility for taking the game-winning shot in back-to-back games.
Melbourne opened the match with 10 of the first 12 goals as the Lightning imploded with a series of errant passes into the goal circle, the visitors holding Sunshine Coast to the lowest-scoring quarter by any team this season.
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis opted to start Emily Mannix ahead of in-form goal keeper Liv Lewis and the 29-year-old delivered a defensive masterclass in the opening period with three gains and two intercepts as the visitors took a 17-6 lead.
Despite some eye-catching performances from Lewis in recent matchups against imposing goal shooters Jhaniele Fowler and Donnell Wallam, McKinnis backed Mannix's ability to track the agility of Lightning duo Cara Koenen and Wood.
"That was why we went with Emily today," McKinnis told Fox Sports.
"It's horses for courses and that's why you have a depth in a squad and that's why you have a variety of different players in a squad."
The Lightning could not make major inroads into Melbourne's advantage in the second stanza with Jo Weston producing a pair of late turnovers to maintain a 30-20 buffer at halftime.
Sunshine Coast's hopes of snapping their two-game losing streak took a blow when Wood left the game late in the third quarter with a rib complaint.
She returned to lead a stunning revival with a flurry of long-range bombs that saw the Lightning hit the front but they were unable to deny Austin her decisive moment.