Competition front-runners the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have come through an intense examination to edge out the Southern Steel 61-57 and maintain their unbeaten start to the trans-Tasman netball league.
The teams went toe-to-toe for much of the contest in Hamilton before the Magic finally pulled clear in the last quarter.
The Steel were left still searching for their first victory of 2014, but they did produce their best display so far.
Magic skipper Casey Kopua said her players knew they had to lift their performance after a below-par first half.
She said the message at halftime from coach Julie Fitzgerald was that action rather than talk was needed.
“So it was actions and those little actions to try to inspire your own team,” she said.
The match featured an absorbing battle between 1.98m Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and the Silver Ferns defensive pairing of Kopua and Leana de Bruin.
“I feel like I’ve dragged through a bush backwards,” Kopua said.
“That’s part of the game. That’s what it’s like and that’s what you’ve got to do to win.”
The Steel feeders took advantage of Fowler-Reid’s height and last year’s player-of-the season obliged with with 39 goals from 41 attempts.
At the other end, England shooter Jo Harten continued her impressive start with her new team with 39 goals from 42 shots.
The opening quarter was goal-for-goal, with the Steel holding grimly on to a slim lead.
A great intercept by Kopua produced the possession from which goal attack Ellen Halpenny finally put the Magic 12-11 in front.
But neither side could made a significant break until the Steel strung five goals in a row late in the second quarter to go into a 32-27 advantage at halftime.
Fitzgerald made a change by bringing on Jamie-Lee Price and the 18-year-old made an impact at wing defence as the Magic upped the intensity to squeeze in front 45-44 at three-quarter time.
The Magic’s two other mid-courters, Courtney Tairi and Grace Rasmussen, also played their part as the home side finally kicked clear.