Laura Langman’s 200th elite game will not be remembered fondly by the New Zealand international after the Melbourne Vixens squeezed the life out of her Sunshine Coast Lightning in their Super Netball showdown.
Swarming defence paved the way for the 62-52 victory and ruined the atmosphere for the home crowd who had packed USC Stadium to celebrate Langman’s milestone on Saturday.
Vixens shooter Caitlin Thwaites scored 33 goals while captain Kate Moloney responded determinedly to her Diamonds’ World Cup squad omission by winning her midcourt battle with Silver Ferns’ veteran Langman.
The Vixens overcame a slow start to claim the bonus points on offer for winning the first term.
Their midcourt defence restricted Langman’s influence as the attack line scored the last seven goals of the quarter.
The defensive crunch was both brilliantly conceived and executed.
Melbourne’s Renae Ingles’ performance was not statistically significant, but she clogged the central space normally controlled by Langman and snapped her connection with the Lightning’s shooters.
Such was the effectiveness of the shutdown engineered by Ingles and goal defence Jo Weston, the Lightning completely restructured their attack in the third quarter.
Goal attack Steph Wood moved out to wing attack to facilitate a goal circle partnership between Peace Proscovia (26/28) and Cara Koenen (17/19) but the back-to-back championships could not regain the momentum.
“My job’s made easy with Jo and Emily (Mannix) behind me. They make wing defence look easy,” Ingles said.
Melbourne’s performance moved them to the top of the table, at least until the outcome of the NSW Swifts’ Sunday clash with Collingwood, while the Lightning slipped a place to third.