The Wanganui women's team have extended their unbeaten run another week but this time they had to survive a dominant opponent to do it, as the home side held PN College to an unexpected 1-1 draw at Gonville on Saturday.
While buoyed by their recent form of two draws and a win from their last three Manawatu Premier 1 matches, Wanganui had kept their expectations realistic against College, who beat them 4-0 earlier in the season and had a 5-1 record, with their only blemish being the 2-1 loss to undefeated High School Hockey Club.
Going into Saturday's match, College had amassed 28 goals for only two conceded, compared to Wanganui's differential of 11-15.
But the home side, with their core group of veterans, took advantage of the holiday break as College were missing some of their secondary school players, while others were busy with the national regional title-winning Central Under 18's, including Whanganui's own Emma Rainey.
Nonetheless, the Wanganui team also had Jo Bell and Rebecca Baker away with the Central team, so coach Colleen Baylis was delighted to have tied the powerhouses, "given we only had nine players [at training] on Thursday night".
"They were missing a few players as well. They brought 12 over, which was a surprise.
"You've still got to be happy with it, both teams had as many chances as each other."
Wanganui drew first blood through Jessica Watkin, who took the pass in the circle from Kirsty Parsons.
"She powered on that and put away a good opportunity," said Baylis.
Wanganui held their 1-0 lead right through until the fourth quarter, when a desperate College finally scored off a penalty corner.
Loren Mooney had a solid game at the back, getting through a lot of defensive work, as did Trin McCarthy who was strong for the second match in a row.
Still third on the table but well back from College and HSHC respectively, Wanganui will now have their biggest test as they go down to the Twin Turfs this Saturday to meet the table-toppers.
HSHC have won seven straight games, scoring 30 goals while conceeding three.
Baylis will have Bell and Baker back on board and hopes the veterans, who have inspired a good team culture this season, will be able to lift yet again.
"Hopefully we'll have a full team to go there.
"That will be my next challenge - give everybody a rark up during the week."
Tech College Old Boys coach Russell Burgess wishes he could have that kind of culture to give him some continuity, as his team had to go down to the Twin Turfs for the fourth-straight weekend, taking a 5-2 loss to PN Marist.
Again, the side was missing five regulars, with Burgess having to plug the holes to raise a bare-bones squad of 12.
"While we started with a hiss and a roar and put a lot of pressure on them.
"Then it turned around half way through the [opening] quarter and then it was too much," said Burgess.
Wanganui actually led nearing halftime, scoring a reply goal in the first quarter through Craig Ritani after a short flick into the goal from a penalty corner.
Then Calin Mooney took a cross at the top of the circle and worked himself into space to slam home the goal for 2-1 approaching the second break.
However, Marist equalised three minutes later from a free hit, and then regained the lead with a good goal in the third quarter.
By now, the grind of a 12-man squad playing a 15-man team with rolling substitutions was taking effect, as Marist blew the score out with back-to-back goals in the final quarter.
"They got a good field goal down the left hand side," said Burgess.
"The fifth one was buildup from the back, passed it around."
In two of Marist's goals, the inexperienced Wanganui keeper was able to make saves, but Marist just hounded down on the deflections to prevent the clearance and then get off another shot.
"Their workrate was superior to ours, and that took its toll in the end," said Burgess.
"Our legs and everything ran out again. It's really just fitness and legs."
It makes it tough for a coach who knows what the problem is - the lack of steady numbers for continuity and conditioning - but is at a loss with how to fix it.
Things don't get easier this weekend as TCOB must play their fifth straight Twin Turfs game against the undefeated College, who are 10-0 with a phenomenal 54 goals scored to seven conceded.
After that, TCOB will thankfully have a run of three home matches, but Burgess admits they will be long shots to snatch the fourth spot for a semifinal appearance.
They now need to pull a big upset somewhere along the way, while hoping results from other games work out in their favour.
"[Saturday] was our semifinal, really," said Burgess.
"If we had won that, we would have stayed in contention."