Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau has cemented itself firm favourite to retain the Premier A1 netball title with two weeks of round robin play left before play off time.
The Walter Edmonds-coached side beat Kaiwhaiki 52-46 on Monday night to remain top of the table, while Phillips Electrical Whanganui High School continue to snap at their heels in second spot after a convincing 62-46 victory over Marist A1. In the other match-up on the night Mere Te Aroha dispatched the young Cullinane side 64-37.
Edmonds conceded Kaiwhaiki had put her Kaierau girls under immense pressure, perhaps for the first time this season.
"It was a very close game and from our perspective we started strongly with a lot of good turnover ball, but then complacency set in," Edmonds said.
"Complacency is our enemy and after setting up a bit of a lead in the first quarter we let them in. The game was a bit of a wake up call and I prefer we had that now rather than in a couple of weeks in the play offs."
Edmonds singled out Sarah Teki-Clark's defensive game at goal defence in the first quarter and finishing at goal keep as crucial to Kaierau's win.
"Her turnover ball was crucial. I thought Te Rangimarie Takiari-Cribb-Mahi played an excellent game for Kaiwhaiki at goal attack, especially during g the second, third and fourth quarters."
While WHS coach Lisa Murphy was more than happy with her girls' performance against Marist, she was well aware of the danger Kaiwhaiki posed on the way to the finals.
"I think Kaiwhaiki has improved significantly throughout the competition and we have a huge hurdle to clear when we play them next week," Murphy said.
"We did beat them convincingly in round one, but they are the ones to watch and all going to plan they look like the team we will face in the semi finals and they will not be easy."
Murphy was delighted with the way her girls executed defensive play practiced in the lead-up to Monday's Marist clash, and particularly pleased with the amount of turnover ball won.
"The girls are playing really well as a team at this stage of the competition and perhaps the biggest thing for me to come out of Monday's game was our defensive play. We gained a lot of turnover ball and used it well.
"We did start a slowly and it was close early in the game, but managed to come away with a good win. And I managed to give all 10 players time on court for the second week on end," Murphy said.
Mere Te Aroha coach Deshannon Matthews conceded her team had played inconsistent netball all season, but was pleased the win over Cullinane left the gate open for a shot at top four.
"We've had a pretty inconsistent season, but a top four opportunity is still open for us if we can beat Marist next week," Matthews said.
"Last night we were finally able to finish off and score goals and inject a bit of consistency into our game. We were also very fortunate to have Kelera Kuruyabaki back from injury for the first time this season. She wasn't 100 per cent, but just to have her on court was a very good thing. We will be gunning for that top four spot next week."