THEIR draw earlier in the season meant Saturday's Bathurst Netball Association A grade preliminary final between Panthers and Bulldogs Verdelho had the potential to be a great game.
It lived up to the hype.
Panthers overcame a disrupted build-up to the match to scrape home 35-34 victors over Bulldogs in one of the best matches of the season.
The lead changed on several occasions throughout the match in a high quality and fast paced affair.
Panthers got off to a slightly stronger start but the Bulldogs girls were never far away, and they were able to keep pace going into the half-time break.
Fitness was a small query for both teams, given the lack of netball this year, but they put on a show in the second half.
In the end it was Panthers who got the nod but not without an excellent fight from the Bulldogs, a fight that coach Anita van Dartel was proud to see.
"That's life, but it was a really top game. My girls showed big hearts. It was a top game. They worked hard, tried hard and the lead went back and forth all game. It was a bit nerve-wreaking to watch," she said.
"It's a shame. We were shooting high this season but we weren't flogged, and it's still one of the better results we've had over the past few seasons so I'm still proud of that."
The two teams were keen to face off after only having the chance to play each other once this season - a 28-all draw back in round one this year.
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And it turned out the teams were still as even as ever.
Van Dartel said the game was a great quality affair from the opening minutes.
"It was full on from the get-go, from both sides. They had the lead, then we had the lead, and it was honestly a timing thing that they were the team who were up when the bell went," she said.
"I love getting excited and love seeing my team getting excited to play. It's great to see the team happy. They came back stronger than ever after being down in the first quarter.
"We were happy to be there this season, and you've got to remember that netball always should be fun."
Panthers' victory means this year's grand final will be a replay of the 2019 edition against Collegians Mystified.
Collegians are yet to drop a game this season but will go into the decider without playing competitive netball for almost a month.
It was a doubly good day for the Panthers club at the top level in the Bathurst competition, as their A reserve side claimed a 39-30 win over Superstar United in their preliminary final.
The Panthers Allsorts squad will be chasing an upset in the grand final against Scots All Saints College.