Goal shooter Brooke Fennings proved pivotal as Nova overpowered West Leagues Balance 46-42 with a strong final quarter and Souths coach Tracey van Dal said they had "no answer" for Sabina Gomboso despite a character-building fightback in a 52-46 loss to University of Newcastle.
Thunder and University remained the only unbeaten sides after round five of Newcastle championship netball was played at National Park courts on Saturday.
A fatiguing Inner Glow held on for their second straight win, beating a fast-finishing Junction Stella 38-35, and for the second week in a row Kotara South lost by one goal, this time to BNC Whanau in a 33-32 result.
West led Nova 10-7 at the first break before the scores were locked 20-20 at half-time. The three-time champions held a 36-33 advantage heading into the final quarter, in which Nova outscored West by seven goals.
Nova player-coach Katie Robinson said consistency and composure under pressure proved key.
"We were steady, and we kept our cool," Robinson said. "If we had a couple of turnovers we'd pick something back and be able to convert it, where often sometimes we lose a couple and tend to fall into a bit of a hole.
"Brooke Fennings was a standout for us and Georgia McVey ran around at goal defence for us where she normally runs at keeper. That was a nice little change-up and I think it worked well for us."
University set up their win over the Lions, who were unbeaten in three starts leading into the clash, with a blistering start. They led 16-8 at quarter-time, 29-20 at half-time then 40-35 heading into the final period.
University coach Traci Baber praised the efforts of centre Karlie Robards and of high-scoring goal shooter Gomboso.
"We has the best first 15 minutes that we've ever had," Baber said. "Then it was like a shootout. It was exceptional shooting from both teams and exceptional defence. That first 15 minutes just literally set us up for the game.
"Karlie Robards played the whole game at centre and she was outstanding. For her to play 60 minutes against Narelle [Eather] at that level was a very good captain's effort today. Sabina probably would've missed two today, and of those 52 she probably scored 48. She's a nice anchor to have at the end of the court, that's for sure."
Souths coach Tracey van Dal was disappointed with the result but gleaned "plenty of positives" from the performance.
"Eight goals down first quarter is always going to be difficult to come back against a team like that, but we did, and we got within two goals in the last quarter," van Dal said.
"The benefits that we can take out of that far outweigh the result. It was a great learning curve for my girls. They need to start strong every single game.
"But I was happy with the fightback and never-say-die attitude to show we can be down so far against a top, quality side and get within two goals."
Van Dal said Zoe Peden "made a difference" when she came on at wing attack for the second half but the Lions "had no answer" to Gomboso.
Inner Glow led at every break against Junction Stella but player-coach Jessika Christensen said fitness proved a telling factor with the majority of her side backing up from playing for Charlestown on Friday night in the NSW Regional State League finals at Raymond Terrace.
"We has a really strong third quarter and went into the last quarter up by six but there were a lot of tired bodies out there," Christensen said.
"Junction played well defensively. They pretty much shut our attack down in that last quarter. In the last three or four minutes they put five in a row on us and we just managed to hold on."
BNC Whanau player-coach Victoria Aoake was pleased they could made changes and still get away with their first win of the modified season.
The scores were locked at 10-10 at the end of the first quarter then 19-19 at half-time. BNC led 29-26 heading into the final period.
"It felt comfortable at the start but I think we let them come a little bit too close for liking," Aoake said.
"We managed to get all our younger ones on for at least a quarter, so that was good. We were able to start with the same combination but had the opportunity to change it up a bit and trial new things and still keep a lead, which was good.
"Kahlia Rocco at goalkeeper was good to take some loose ball and come through and clean up some things for us. Cassie Craig came on in the third quarter and got to settle into the goal shooter position, which she hasn't had the chance to do yet.
"She's one of the players we're trying to bring through and she got a decent amount of court time to give herself time to settle into the position at the top grade."
On Friday night, Newcastle's 17s team beat a Newcastle open side to win the NSW Regional State League final at Raymond Terrace after downing Charlestown in the preliminary final.
Newcastle championship round 5 results:
Nova beat West Leagues Balance 46-42. (Q1: West 10-7, Q2: 20-20, Q3: West 36-33, Q4: Nova 46-42)
BNC Whanau beat Kotara South 33-32. (Q1: 10-10, Q2: 19-19, Q3: BNC 29-26, Q4: BNC 33-32)
Inner Glow beat Junction 38-35. (Q1: Inner Glow 12-11, Q2: Inner Glow 20-17, Q3: Inner Glow 30-24, Q4: Inner Glow 38-35)
University beat Souths 52-46. (Q1: University 16-8, Q2: University 29-20, Q3: University 40-35, Q4: University 52-46)