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West Coast Fever beats Melbourne Vixens to seal Super Netball preliminary final berth

Jhaniele Fowler shot 55 goals to lead Fever into the Super Netball preliminary final.

Jhaniele Fowler shot 55 goals to lead Fever into the Super Netball preliminary final. Photo: AAP

West Coast Fever has kept its Super Netball title defence alive with a hard-fought 64-57 minor semi-final win over arch rivals Melbourne Vixens at Perth’s RAC Arena.

Fever led by six goals early in the final quarter of Sunday’s match, and still led 59-55 with four minutes remaining.

But the Vixens gave the home side an almighty scare after that, with Kiera Austin nailing a Super Goal, then having another attempt to level the scores with two minutes remaining.

Austin’s missed shot proved the end of the Vixens’ resistance, with Fever captain Courtney Bruce snaring a series of crucial deflections in the dying stages to help seal victory.

Fever will now face NSW Swifts in next week’s preliminary final in Sydney.

The winner of that match will meet Adelaide Thunderbirds in the July 8 grand final in Melbourne.

Star Fever goalshooter Jhaniele Fowler scored 55 goals in a strong display, while Bruce was a rock in defence on the way to 15 deflections and six gains.

Mwai Kumwenda scored 39 goals for the Vixens, while Austin finished with 12 goals and three Super Shots from her eight attempts from long range.

The Thunderbirds secured a direct path to the grand final with a shock 64-62 victory over the Swifts in Sydney on Saturday.

That major semi-final went to overtime, with the Thunderbirds holding their nerve when it mattered most.

It means the Swifts, who finished atop the ladder, must now win on their home turf to set up a rematch with the Thunderbirds in the grand final.

But they will face a hungry Fever outfit keen to defend its crown.

The Vixens shot out to a 10-6 lead midway through the opening term in a strong start to Sunday’s match.

But a crucial intercept from Fever goal defence Sunday Aryang and a Super Shot from Sasha Glasgow helped propel the home side to a 15-14 lead at quarter time.

West Coast briefly lost the lead in the second term before a couple of crucial gains from Bruce ensured the Fever entered the half-time break with a 32-30 advantage.

Bruce had eight deflections in the first half in a standout display, and alarm bells were ringing for the Vixens when a Glasgow Super Shot extended the lead to six goals in the dying stages of the third quarter.

Austin pulled a Super Shot back for the Vixens to reduce the margin to four goals at the final change, and the Vixens continued to fight before Fever dominated the final two minutes.

-AAP

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