One lousy goal — or a cracking one, depending on where your allegiances lie — is all that separated the two winners from the losers in round five of the Super 8 netball competition in Napier.
Outkast Optimise Physio edged out Hastings High School Old Girls' Proactive Huia 41-40 while Havelock North House of Travel Kauri pipped Napier Girls' High School Senior A 45-44 when the squeaks and squeals subsided during the elite Karamu Holden-sponsored Hawke's Bay competition at the Pettigrew-Green Arena on Friday night.
Looking from outside, it's safe to assume the victors will walk away counting their blessings while those who came up agonisingly shy will ponder on what-ifs.
Was it that spine-tingling raking shot, under duress, from Outkast goal shoot Sa'ena Rakei that made the difference or was it that timely pass from goal attack Shevanna Sullivan?
Perhaps it was that crucial intercept from Outkast goal defence Amanda Palmer or that 50-50 scramble goal keep Barbie Thompson made which did the trick.
Maybe it was what goal shoot Judy Brown and goal attack Hannah O'Keefe did or didn't do that could have tipped the scale of expectation Huia's way, never mind that centre Hanna Brough put her body on the line.
"It was definitely good to come away with a win," said Palmer, mindful they were coming of a top-of-the-table loss in the previous round to All In Tremains Elusive who, predictably, overwhelmed Hastings Girls' High School Senior A 68-37 last Friday.
Asked how either parties should take a one-goal benefit or deficit, she said the pressure-cooker environment was a godsend, albeit an unrehearsed part of the script.
"It's a really good experience for the girls to remain calm," she said. "You don't have to change the way you play just because the score is really close."
Instead, Palmer said what such situations demanded was a smarter approach.
"I think it's about learning how to handle that pressure rather than 'Oh no, are we going to win or are we going to lose', so you just have to channel it through steadying your performance, so it's good for everyone on the court to experience that because some people do crack under that pressure to do things they wouldn't if it was in the first quarter and they weren't worried about the scoreboard."
For the seven on court in the fourth chapter, she said it was imperative to grasp the gravity of the situation but not let the proceedings disintegrate.
The fulltime mum, who also is a part-time youth employment worker, said Huia had a solid template while Brown and Sullivan, who shot at 79 and 68 per cent, respectively, had decent chemistry in the attacking circle.
"So, I guess, me and Barbie and the entire team were focused on defence this week. It started with the zone and the whole team did their job."
Palmer and Thompson tried to disrupt and turnover possession to cushion the damage.
Conversely, Sa'ena and Sullivan posted 81 and 83 per cent, respectively, at the other end of the court after Raiha Falcon-Maxwell had cold/hot spells.
Huia coach Rebecca Martin echoed Palmer's sentiments in that it was a good time for her fold to learn.
Martin said they had a young squad and in the past fortnight struggled with numbers due to illness and work, including Grace Nolan's absence after picking up an ankle injury.
"Yes, we'd like to have been one up but we're there or thereabouts so it's a good time for a break," she said, alluding to traditionally no games this Friday due to the Queen's Birthday long weekend before they face leaders All In in a fortnight.
Otane Thirsty Whale beat Central Sports Vet Services 47-40 but the game had a goal-here-and-goal-there feel about it.
It was a hammer-and-tong affair with Otane surging to an 18-8 lead before Central hit back with a 14-5 deposit in the next spell to trail 23-22.
However, Otane coach/GA Tammy Kupa got her side back on track with 16-9 third quarter to increase the margin to 39-31 before counterpart Jeanette Oliver's Central fought back 9-8 but it was too little, too late.
Goal shoot Melissa Te Huki posted a don't-argue 91 per cent for the victors while GS Kirby Beach and GA Isabelle Crawshaw shared the load of 66 and 65 per cent, respectively, before Ally Hislop came into the circle for Beach on a 75 per cent returns for Central.
At the PG Arena, Napier, on Friday, June 7:
■ 6pm: Hastings High School Old Girls' Proactive Huia v All In Tremains Elusive, PG 2.
■ 6pm: Outkast Optimise Physio v Otane Thirsty Whale, PG 1.
■ 7.30pm: Havelock North House of Travel Kauri v Central Sports Vet Services, PG 1.
■ 7.30pm: Napier Girls' High School Senior A v Hastings Girls High School Senior A, PG 1.
■ Shield standings after five rounds: All In 20pts, Outkast 16, Otane 13, Havelock North Kauri 12, HHSOG Huia 12, Central Sports 6, NGHS Snr A 5, HGHS Snr A 0.