In a match where fortunes swung wildly, the Northern Stars and the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have played out a thrilling draw, 46-46 – the first draw in ANZ Premiership history.
With both sides striving to move up the league ladder, neither team was willing to hand over a point – and both showed their tenacity to fight back when they were, at times, seven goals down.
While the Magic, coming off a harrowing loss to the unbeaten Central Pulse just 26 hours earlier, took early control, the Stars rallied to the point where their lead at three-quarter time looked almost comfortable.
But then the Magic team dug deep and renewed their intensity, scoring the final six goals of the match – and stealing two crucial intercepts – to tie the scores up at the final whistle.
The Magic had one of the most dominant starts of the league, with their defence shutting down the Stars' attack before they had even truly begun.
With Kelsey McPhee and Abigail Latu-Meafou shooting will a lot more confidence and poise than they had the previous night, the Magic took a 5-0 lead on the scoreboard, stunning the many Stars fans among the 500-strong crowd.
Magic wing attack Whitney Souness, who would be named MVP of the match, set the tone by playing some beautiful soaring balls into McPhee on the baseline.
Just as the Stars opened their account, the Magic surged again – circle defenders Erena Mikaere and Holly Fowler pushing Stars shooters Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume out of the circle in an effort to give their midcourters more options.
The Stars were seven goals down before they began to chip away at the deficit, trailing 13-8 at the first break.
Defenders Storm Purvis and Kate Burley came back on to the court with a new determination and began to make life difficult for the Magic shooters.
The Stars midcourters, led by Grace Kara, used shorter, sharper and smarter passes to feed Wilson, with Hume also gaining confidence.
With the gap closed to two, the Magic brought Georgia Tong into their defence, replacing Fowler, to try to starve the Stars shooters. But an intercept by Purvis with two minutes left in the half led to the Stars drawing level, 24-24 at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to the Northerners, who played their best netball of the night. Centre Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, engaged in a 48-minute battle of wills with Magic centre Ariana Cable-Dixon, found more channels to fire the ball through.
Down 38-31 at three-quarter time, and told by coach Amigene Metcalfe to hunt for more ball, the Magic quickly closed to within four in a tense and torrid final spell.
Then the Magic scored six in a row – aided by two crucial intercepts by Mikaere and captain Sam Winders – for a spectacular end to a see-sawing game.