Jacinda Ardern wouldn't pick a winner but Judith Collins claimed she was the clear victor after they clashed last night in the first leaders' debate.
Meanwhile, one of New Zealand's leading broadcasters, Mike Hosking, has taken aim at John Campbell's style of debate moderation, saying the leaders were not kept on their toes.
Labour's Ardern said "politics is not a blood sport" and that the debate felt like more of a "contested conversation".
But National leader Collins was more forthcoming: "I certainly didn't feel like I was losing."
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Hosking - who hosted TVNZ debates in 2014 and 2017 - believed Collins won because she owned the back-half of the debate.
But he said the debate needed to be pacier and sharper to keep the leaders on their toes. They were both very good communicators but questions needed to be short and precise to potentially expose them, he told ZB listeners today.
"A small point from an experienced operator. If John Campbell learned to stop thanking people over and over and...over again, if he trimmed his question from a lengthy tedious dissertation and stopped summing up each section with a lot of 'this is a good debate', 'gosh it's good to have you here' and then tossing in an inexplicable series of huffs and puffs, they could have saved at least 22 minutes. Between him and the commercial realities, a lot of time was wasted."
By slowing everything down to "a geriatric dissertation", the leaders were given time to stall and waffle. "It got so slow at one point, poor old John completely lost where he was and was comforted by Ardern and was asking for alcohol."
Hosking believed taped questions from the public did not work and the debate was more like an occasion for "new arrivals" - people who hadn't given much thought to politics for three years.
Collins had good barbs, knew her policies and sold her vision. "By the end of an hour she was into her stride and taking a certain level of control, possibly to keep herself awake."
Ardern didn't make any real mistakes but was not as assertive. "She's lucky she's leading in the polls because if this was a pitch, she lost."
Hosking said Collins was sharper and more energetic. "One-nil to the Nats"
The debate that came hot on the heels of a 1News/Colmar Brunton poll last night that showed Labour on 48 per cent — enough to govern alone.
National was at 31 per cent, which was a one percentage point drop on the previous poll.
National's level of support was the first issue Collins was asked about last night.
She said she was "a fighter" and that previous Opposition leaders would have "crawled over broken glass" to have that level of support.
Later in the evening, she said the poll showed National had a "challenge" on its hands, but she "loves a fight".
Looking ahead, Collins will be targeting the undecided New Zealand voters — last night's poll showed that they made up 14 per cent of the voting base.
"There will be some people who were watching tonight who will be coming back to National," Collins said.
On Labour's numbers, Ardern said her party would not be getting complacent on the campaign trail.
In terms of the big issues of the night, the Government's child poverty record was one of the most heated parts of the debate.
At one point, Collins clearly hit a nerve when she questioned what she suggested was the Government's lacklustre performance in reducing child poverty.
The National leader said repeatedly that child poverty had actually gone up under Ardern's watch, when looking at the material hardship measure.
Ardern said that it was "difficult to stand by" and listen to Collins make these sort of comments, as this was only one of many measures used to define child poverty in New Zealand.
But she made a promise to the country: "I am not done [with] child poverty."
Speaking to media after the debate, Collins said the reason these comments seemed to get under Ardern's skin was because she "must be embarrassed about it".
But Ardern said Collins' comments on this matter did not get to her.
"I'm quite passionate about that area and I, of course, wanted to give a slightly longer-form answer," she told reporters.
"I don't think you can be in politics and allow other politicians to get under your skin."
Throughout the debate, Ardern had a clear focus on optimism.
She leaned heavily on the Government's Covid-19 record and how New Zealand was one of the safest countries in the world at the moment.
This drew scoffs from Collins, who pointed out the people who have escaped from managed isolation — something that she said would never happen under her watch.
For most of the debate, Ardern stuck to talking about her Government's record, and what it planned to do, if re-elected.
But she did take aim at her opposition at one point, when talking about National's temporary tax-cut plans. Those plans would mean everyone in New Zealand would get a tax cut for 16 months, but the people on the highest wages would benefit the most.
At one point, Ardern said bluntly: "I shouldn't get a tax cut," to which Collins replied, "Well, give it back then."