With pride to play for in the fifth/sixth Whangārei Netball Centre premier competition playoff, Naumai and Wahine Toa certainly made it entertaining.
The two teams, who have struggled with injury and player availability all season, battled in the first of three quarterfinals on Friday night at ASB Stadium. After an unconvincing first quarter from both sides, Naumai were able to take the ascendancy and hold on for a 57-48 win.
Neither Naumai nor Wahine Toa were able to contend the premier final after they finished fifth and sixth respectively after the regular season. After leading by just two in the first quarter on Friday, Naumai stretched their lead to 26-21 at halftime.
Turnovers plagued both sides' progress as possession changed hands multiple times before either shooting circle was able to affect the scoreboard.
The third quarter saw Wahine Toa launch a great comeback and at one point, draw level with Naumai. However, Wahine Toa's inconsistency with ball in hand gave Naumai a nine-goal lead at three-quarter time which persisted until the final whistle.
"We didn't have a good start but we came right, I think the girls got better as they went along," Naumai coach Maree Langdon said.
The Naumai squad face a hard schedule next week with their involvement in Dargaville's netball competition. Playing in a semifinal on Wednesday in Dargaville, Naumai will play again in Whangārei on Friday before a possible final on Saturday.
Langdon said the team's intention was to re-enter the Whangārei competition in 2020 but knew they couldn't repeat 2019's efforts which saw Naumai play many games with the bare minimum of seven players.
"To be able to play over here and play well, we need to have 12 committed players and we've just been plagued with injury, sickness and just not being committed."
Wahine Toa coach Ivy Te Nana said she was pleased to see her side make a comeback in the third quarter, but was disappointed not to capitalise on Naumai's mistakes.
"We were equal and I was like, 'OK, here we go', but I think there were a few tired legs out there because we only had the minimum of one substitute," she said.
Te Nana said early injuries hampered their progress in the competition but she hoped fit players and a new coach in 2020 would lift the team's performance in the top grade.
"Had we kept our original defenders and our original shooters I think it would have been a different season, however, I'm very grateful to our northern girls who came down to fill those positions, they definitely helped our young players grow."
In the late game on Friday, league leaders The Bubz took on Whangaruru to confirm who would advance straight to the premier final in two weeks time. The Bubz, who have finished the 2019 season very strongly, thrashed their closest contenders 70-47.
Friday's second game saw Manawanui White kicked out of finals contention as they lost 55-48 in an entertaining contest with Whangārei Girls' High School.
These results will see Whangaruru and Whangārei Girls' High School battle on Friday next week to see who will face The Bubz in the final a week later.