T&T's Samantha Wallace's New South Wales (NSW) Swifts started their Suncorp Super Netball title defence with a thrilling 63-61 win over local rivals the Giants at Nissan Arena in Brisbane, Australia on Sunday.
It was a game that ebbed and flowed from start to finish with the Giants having the better things for much of it before the Premiers built up enough of a gap late in the contest to repel a Suncorp Super Shot-driven comeback at the death.
Despite registering the first score off turnover possession with a beautiful Wallace layup, the Giants settled faster than the Swifts and good defensive pressure was confusing the Premiers’ attacking third. After five minutes the Giants led 5-2 before a loose Maddy Proud pass on the circle edge allowed the home side stretch the advantage to five mid-way through the opening period.
However just before the first Rebel Power Five of the game the Premiers harried and got back within two goals. Both Wallace and Helen Housby were unsuccessful with their first Super Shot attempts but soon started to hit the target. Wallace looked comfortable from range, hitting six goals of 13 attempts as did Giants skipper Jo Harten (9/13), and the teams went to the first break tied at 17 goals apiece.
With a condensed season, ahead Swifts head coach Briony Akle made changes early in the game resting her opening shooters. The second quarter was a scrappy affair with both teams lacking fluidity but when the Super Shot period hit Harten was proving difficult to handle from distance. The Giant goal-attack struck just before the halftime break to be the key component in her side taking a five-goal lead to the big break.
The speed and physicality upped in the second half and the Giants were doing enough to keep the Swifts at bay before defensive pressure and excellent use of the Super Shot allowed Wallace to put the Premiers in the driving seat. In the space of five minutes, the Swifts went from five goals down to leading by three at the final break, taking the quarter by 21 goals to 13.
They put their foot on the gas for most of the fourth quarter as Sophie Garbin - on for Wallace - provided a good target for her shooters. Sophie Garbin's combination with Housby was then starving the Giants of possessions.
Harten, however, wasn’t finished and had plenty to say as the end game approached – linking well with young shooter Sophie Dwyer to ensure the Swifts’ wouldn’t be comfortable until the final seconds of the contest.
Wallace was perfect with her regular shots, connecting each of her 27 tries as the Swifts saw it out to secure the win and retain the Carole Sykes Memorial Trophy until the next time the sides meet later in the season.