Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Firebirds too good for Swifts

Gabi Simpson (R). Photo / Christine Cornege
Gabi Simpson (R). Photo / Christine Cornege

The Queensland Firebirds' bid to become the first side to win back-to-back ANZ Championship titles is on track after an 11-goal demolition of the NSW Swifts in tonight's Australian conference final.

The two sides, who contested last year's grand final, have developed a fierce rivalry over the past couple of years on the back of some tightly fought contests. But tonight failed to deliver on the pre-match hype, with the Swifts unravelling over the latter stages of the third quarter, and the classy Firebirds powered home to a convincing 63-52 win.

The result confirms next week's ANZ Championship semifinal match-ups, after the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's shock win over the previously unbeaten Southern Steel in last night's New Zealand conference final.

The Steel will travel across the Tasman to take on the Firebirds, who are now in the box seat to host what will be the last transtasman league grand final, while the Magic will host the Swifts in Hamilton on Monday night.

The star-studded Swifts line-up defeated an injury-depleted Magic line-up by 24-goals in Sydney earlier this season, but the resurgent Waikato-Bay of Plenty side may now sniff an opportunity against the Swifts, who wilted under finals pressure tonight.

The Firebirds got an early jump on the Swifts, leading 16-12 at first break on the back of a couple of handy turnovers from the tireless Gabi Simpson, who seemingly had a hand in everything last night. Despite an improved effort from the Swifts in the second quarter, the home side stretched their lead out to five goals at the long break.

Needing to spark something in his side, Swifts coach Rob Wright made widespread changes to his line-up in both the third and fourth quarters, including benching his two most experienced players - Kim Green and Laura Langman - to little effect.

- NZ Herald

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