Geva Mentor tussles with Caitlin Thwaites.
Geva Mentor tussles with Caitlin Thwaites.

Lightning strike late to devour Pies

THE Sunshine Coast Lightning displayed all the fighting qualities of a champion side with a drought-breaking 52-50 victory over Collingwood in Melbourne.

Without their head coach Noeline Taurua, who was in New Zealand to be with her ill father, and staring down the barrel of a 0-4 start to their Suncorp Super Netball championship defence, the odds were stacked against the Lightning against the star-studded Magpies yesterday.

But the Lightning lifted the trophy in 2017 for a reason.

They are made of seriously tough stuff and, under the guidance of assistant coach Kylee Byrne, captured their first win of 2018 after surviving a stirring fourth quarter comeback from Collingwood.

The Sunshine Coast won the first three quarters at Margaret Court Arena to bank three bonus points and hold a commanding eight-goal buffer at three-quarter time after leading by as much as nine goals.

The Magpies closed to within two goals after changing up their defensive approach by conceding the first pass and flooding the back-end of the court to make life difficult for the Lightning shooters who had been enjoying the wide open spaces.

But the Sunshine Coast held firm under the 15-9 fourth-term blitz from Collingwood to open their account for the season with Caitlin Bassett hitting a perfect 37 shots from 37 attempts with Steph Wood chiming in with 15 goals.

Players congratulate each other after the clash.
Players congratulate each other after the clash.

Bassett was named player of the match but said goal defence Karla Pretorius was the most influential Lightning player with seven intercepts.

"She (Pretorius) was an absolute dynamo for us. Her and Geva (Mentor) did the work down that defensive end that gave us the scores down the attacking end,'' Bassett said.

"They came back hard in that last quarter but I think to finally have a win... we've been edging towards it for the last few games so it feels really good.''

The Lightning lost their first three matches by a combined total of just seven goals so they only needed some subtle fine-tuning to get their season back on track.

Stephanie Wood looks for support.
Stephanie Wood looks for support.

They kept Collingwood to a season-low 10 goals in the first term by shutting down their goal attack options while the double-barrelled threat of Bassett and Wood was too hard to contain.

The Lightning led by one at quarter-time, three at half-time and eight at the last change to stamp their authority on the misfiring Magpies who have the same 1-3 win-loss record as the reigning champions.

The Sunshine Coast host the hapless Adelaide on Sunday and a bonus-point laced win over the cellar-dwelling Thunderbirds will catapult the Lightning closer to the top four.