The NSW Swifts have gifted the trans-Tasman netball league minor premiership to the Melbourne Vixens after losing 56-53 to the Northern Mystics.
A Swifts win in Auckland on Sunday would have handed the Australian side top ranking and hosting rights for the major semi-final next weekend.
Instead they will finish third and host the minor semi-final against either the Queensland Firebirds or Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
It was another twist to the 14th and final round of the regular season after the Vixens squandered a chance to seal the top spot on Saturday when toppled 65-64 by the Southern Steel in Invercargill.
Swifts captain Kimberlee Green lamented a patchy display against a Mystics side who produced one of their best performances of the season but who will finish in seventh place.
Green didn’t think the chance to finish top had distracted her players.
“We talked about it before the game and we made sure the game was what we were concentrating on,” she said.
“We knew it was the Mystics’ last game and they played absolutely amazing. We’re just happy to be in the playoffs.”
Both teams put up 64 shots but the superior accuracy of Mystics shooter Cathrine Latu (32 from 33) proved important, with support from Maria Tutaia (24/31).
Caitlin Thwaites (34/40) and Susan Pratley (19/24) looked uncomfortable at times under pressure from the strength and timing of young goal keep Temalisi Fakahokotau.
She helped restrict the Swifts to 10 goals in the final quarter after the visitors had closed the gap to one at the end of the third stanza.
The Mystics bolted 19-12 clear after the first quarter but the advantage was just 31-29 at halftime.
The Auckland-based side finished with six wins from 13 games, which didn’t match pre-season expectations after they unveiled a stronger player roster than the side who placed last in 2013.
The third-placed Firebirds and fourth-placed Magic will meet in Hamilton on Monday in a match to determine which side advances to the major semi-final in Melbourne. The losers will face a sudden-death trip to Sydney.