Hard to know whether the feisty nature of the second debate came from the fact Jacinda Ardern lost the first one or whether they had both been watching and taking tips from Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
But from the bell the exchange was on. And dare I suggest it, but my advice out of last week's debate, which was soporific and geriatric in its pace, was immeasurably improved by a moderator who was engaged, had a question line, and was holding both combatants to account.
Pace puts people on their toes and we saw the results, and it was good to see the gloves off as well.
Ardern learned her lesson out of the first debate, where she was either tired, asleep, arrogant, or all of the aforementioned, but she was back. The trouble she faces, and Collins early barb of "manners” exposed it, is for a person who wanted kindness and positivity has let that charade slip all week, and last night we saw more of it.
It reflects the polls, the centre left has lost momentum. The centre right is on the rise. The gap is closing. What was a cake walk, has shrunk to an easy win, which has shrunk to a likely win, which is fast shrinking to a tight race. So, the pressure is on and you're seeing it in the way Ardern operates and presents herself.
Collins last week and this, thank God, has shaken off the advice she was clearly getting, and sadly taking from people in her office that don’t have a clue, and is back to the old crusher. Nothing beats authenticity, people can see it, and feel it from a mile off. She's getting better the more natural she is.
Ardern alternatively is starting to sweat, it doesn’t suit her. She suffered badly on the wage subsidy. Everyone seems to agree that companies taking it and making profit is bad. Ardern didn’t like it, and yet she was the one that set the rules and then said she wouldn’t do anything about it, Collins would.
That’s the trouble with being in power you have to defend your policies. And Ardern criticised something she created and wouldn’t fix. That's theory versus reality, a weak point of the past three years.
Ultimately though you'd struggle to call a winner out of Ardern and Collins. Both held their ground well, on everything from cannabis, to health and cancer, and to housing. Although if you had to, Collins takes it, just.
Both made good points, both responded well to pressure, both said they'd investigate PHARMAC. To be frank that looked like investigations announced on the hoof to look good. It reminded me of last time when Ardern promised a second pipe line in Auckland for fuel. Did it happen? Of course not. But in the heat of the moment you're prone to saying a lot of mad stuff that will never see the light of day.
Which really is why Patrick Gower was the ultimate winner, he held them to account. And, my God, these past 3 years the mainstream media has failed abysmally on that front. He, in a tiny way, made up for that last night.