In their fourth attempt, the Northern Comets overcame a nervy start to beat five-time champions Central Manawa 56-51 in the Synergy Hair Netball League (NNL) Grand Final at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua.

Shooting for a sixth title, Manawa remained competitive throughout to stay within touching distance but just struggled to make the decisive breakthrough or gain the necessary leverage to take the initiative.

Lining up in their seventh Grand Final, there were, however, still plenty of positives Manawa could take out of a disrupted season.

"I'm proud of this group," Manawa Coach Ngarama Milner-Olsen said. "We've overcome lots of changes and moving parts to our environment and I think the players have adapted and worked really well with them through the season."

"We were right in that game. We had opportunities and that's what finals is about, those tough moments and the decision-making in the critical moments.

"We'll learn from it. It's not the result we wanted but hat's off to the Comets, they're an experienced team but we're proud of what we achieved and today just wasn't our day."

The Comets finished the regular season on the top of the points table but with three national league finals already under their belt, and no silverware to show for it, knew they could take nothing for granted in what was expected to be a tight tussle.

It was to be the Comets' moment as the win was also an opportunity to pay tribute to a netball mentor who had a huge impact on coaching in New Zealand, Ivy Topping, who passed away this week.

Topping is the mother of Comets manager and former Silver Fern Carron Jerram and grandmother of Marcia who played a significant role in the goal defence bib for the victors.

The match promised plenty with just four goals separating the two teams on the two occasions they have met this season – the Comets winning by four in the opening round and a draw played out in Round 6.

Stung by a loss in the last round of the regular season, Manawa showed they meant business when causing a held ball from the first pass of play and opening the scoring as captain Kiana Pelasio shot confidently from range.

The nerves looked all in the Comets camp as simple errors marred their early plays and the hosts raced out to a 4-1 lead.

The defensive pressure applied by Manawa was immense – wing defence Rachel Price menacing with her suffocating play out front and Manawa's rock at the back, Maddison Thomas, also disrupting the Comets flow.

It only got worse for the visitors when captain Tori Kolose limped off court five minutes into the game with what looked like an ankle niggle.

But the unplanned introduction of experienced attacker Eseta Autagavaia added some stability in their nervy start and, living off the scraps, the Comets were able to stay in touch with the defending champions.

Kolose returned to the action as her team found its rhythm on attack and they would have been happy to go into the break trailing just 13-15.

Within two minutes of the resumption of play the Comets had levelled the scores and showed plenty of confidence with their speed of ball movement around the shooting circle, Jaelin Tulikaki finding great space.

Tulikaki's feeders also showed great patience as the Comets built on the momentum to go up by five goals by the midway point of the second stanza.

Frustration started to creep into Manawa's play as their defenders found the attention of the umpires.

Still trailing by five, Manawa made a defensive change in the circle with just under two minutes to play in the half when injecting Zalika Clarke, but still went into the main break down 25-30.

Manawa made another change at the other end of court heading into the third quarter with Sarah Guiney introduced at goal attack.

But there was little the hosts could do to stop the march from the Comets who had taken the game by the scruff of the neck.

Thomas however was not done for Manawa and a couple of key tips from the defender sparked her side into action and they slashed a seven-goal difference to just three, heading into the last spell down 39-42.