Giants upset by Firebirds to loosen grip on top-two finish

The Giants missed a chance to clasp one hand on the Super Netball minor premiership and instead look to have relinquished their grip on a crucial top-two finish after an upset 56-53 loss to the desperate Queensland Firebirds on Friday night.

Queensland's twin towers Romelda Aiken and Gretel Tippett, and midcourt dynamo Gabi Simpson, proved too much to handle for a Giants side well down on the performance they produced to replace the Melbourne Vixens at the top of the table last weekend.

They remain on their perch for now, but Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast Lightning look poised to dislodge them this weekend with winnable games against Adelaide and Sydney respectively.

That would likely turn next Saturday's blockbuster against the Lightning into a top-two shoot-out, with the winner grabbing hold of a crucial second chance ahead of this fledgling competition's inaugural finals series.

Queensland needed to win on Friday at the Olympic Park Sports Centre to keep their faint finals hopes alive, although they will be dashed on Saturday should the Magpies down West Coast as expected.

Their start was rapid and laid down a significant marker with Tippett and Aiken proving immovable objects in the attacking circle.

Route-one netball ensued for long periods throughout and the Giants were largely powerless to deal with the height of Jamaican international Aiken, and basketball convert Tippett.

At the other end, Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald opted for a different set-up, with England international Jo Harten wearing the goal attack bib usually worn by Susan Pettitt, who played the first half at goal shooter.

They were effective when given the chance to shoot, but it was proving much more difficult for the Giants to penetrate into the attacking circle.

While the Firebirds were able to heave it in from distance, the home side were made to navigate their way up court via a short passing game.

"I always feel that we match up well on Giants," Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke said.

"Having that consistent ball that we've been able to have over the last few weeks, they've just grown and grown. They just played really smart netball tonight.

"We've had a lot of interruptions throughout the season and tonight we saw the cohesiveness and the confidence and the understanding in the attack end for the first time."

The margin was two at the first break, and Queensland extended that to seven by the half as the Giants managed only a paltry nine points - their equal-worst return for a quarter this season.

"When you look at the positions on the ladder it wasn't a good time to lose," Fitzgerald said.

"We've been so good at coming from behind and winning, it is a lesson that you can't rely on that all the time. We let them get away from us in the second quarter. With a shooter like Romelda at the back you can't give them a lead like that.

"If we analyse it, we probably won enough ball back to win the match - we just wasted opportunities when we got them in that third quarter. We had so much ball that we threw away when we won it back. They're the things that are really going to cost you."

The Giants fought hard after the break but the damage had been done. They reduced the margin to two midway through the final quarter, but couldn't quite bridge the gulf that had opened up in the first half.

The Lightning, and their own towering beacon in Caitlin Bassett, await.

This story Giants upset by Firebirds to loosen grip on top-two finish first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.