Ardmore Marist South Auckland capped a superb club rugby season by winning a final for the ages to claim the McNamara Cup at Navigation Homes Stadium on Saturday.
They had to do it the hard way however with a thrilling and hard-fought contest against Patumahoe Troydon Patumahoe Hotel going to 20 minutes of extra time, after finishing 26-26 at 80 minutes, before a winner could be found.
Doug Sanft’s side topped round robin play in the most convincing of ways. They beat every side in the competition; lost only twice – an opening week defeat to Manurewa and a late round clash once their top spot have been confirmed to a desperate Karaka side.
They went into the championship final as strong favourites and opened the scoring inside the first five minutes on the back of some powerful charges by their big ball runners and the electric feet of Steelers fullback Luteru Laulala.
But Patumahoe fought back and scored three-straight tries to power their belief and take a commanding lead. First-five Broc Hooper, second-five Riley Hohepa and centre Sam Furniss were in the middle of everything Patumahoe did while Tamati Fromm and the Royal brothers player like men possessed.
But the competition’s leading side fought back with open side flanker Fotu Lokotui extremely influential at the break down.
The game was locked up at 21-21 by halftime and both sides were feeling the physicality of the contest with bumps and bruises galore.
The second half was more about survival. Patumahoe weathered the storm early in the second spell and got better as the half wore on. They had some luck with a couple of missed penalties from Ardmore Marist but got themselves into a position to win the game late in regulation time but couldn’t find a way over the line as the clocked ticked 80 minutes.
Ardmore Marist held on and the game went to extra time as the sun began to fade at Navigation Homes Stadium.
Extra time became almost a lottery and a battle of who could stay in the fight longer as both sides were out on their feet. Patumahoe ran out of healthy players and couldn’t come away with points inside their opposition half. Ardmore Marist found that extra gear that they had displayed all season long and swung onto attack, eventually crashing over just before halftime in extra time.
After they scored the go-ahead try, Patumahoe’s fuel tank hit empty and the score blew-out in a manner that didn’t fit the game.
“Of course I was nervous we were behind by two tries at one point but we got slowly back into the game,” a relieved Sanft said after the match. “Who wants to be a coach?
“I am very proud. We have come a long way. We set some goals at the beginning of the year, went away on camp. It was rebuilding for the club as well because we had no culture.
“That was one of the things that got us through – the boys are really tight.
“I am ecstatic. It is a great feeling. It was so tight it could have gone either way. I feel for Reon and the boys – that game was anyone’s.”
It was a cruel way to end an incredible season for Patumahoe. They fought and scrapped in numerous tight games to come up with a win late in the game, including last week’s semifinal win over Manurewa, but they simply had nothing left to give in extra time.
“Extremely proud,” coach Reon Graham said. “All season these guys have stepped up in tough times and did it again today. I am really proud with how they played – they never, ever stopped.
“Obviously it was tied up at the end of 80 minutes. We had a chance to take it but it went to extra time.
“Really in extra time they got a couple of well-worked tries and that was the difference.
“They are a great side. They’ve got big ball runners that could offload but we made them work for it, that’s for sure.”
The Patumahoe club enjoyed a terrific finals day however despite the disappointment of such a close Premier 1 loss.
Patumahoe Dave Redshaw Electrical finished a brilliant late season charge to win the Premier 2 final against Pukekohe Franklin Long Roofing to lift the Bob Chandler Cup for the first time.
It was a stark contrast to the Premier 1 final with points hard to come by on the sodden Navigation Homes Stadium number two track.
An early Patumahoe penalty opened the scoring but Pukekohe were able to withstand a 15-minute period of attack by their opposition in the first half. Patumahoe got the ball over the line a number of times but couldn’t get it down.
The game opened up a bit in the second spell and Pukekohe went in front through a try out wide. But Patumahoe answered with the best period of the game, scoring back-to-back tries to open up a 15-5 lead.
Pukekohe never went away and they scored late to set up a thrilling final five minutes, spent attacking the Patumahoe line before Reimana Fromm got a turnover that would seal the win.
Weymouth and Te Kauwhata fought out a brilliant Premier 3 final on Navigation Homes Stadium as the curtain-raiser to the Premier 1 final.
Having been the standout side of the competition for the past two seasons Weymouth went in as overwhelming favourites but ran into a committed and fired up Te Kauwhata outfit.
There was nothing between the two sides and Weymouth found themselves ahead 8-5 as the 80th minute approached.
Te Kauwhata had the opportunity to shoot for goal on a couple of occasions and may rue not having a crack at three points when Weymouth held their attack out.
For the second year running Weymouth lifted the Sid Marshall Shield in triumph.
Pukekohe claimed the Massey Cup for winning the Under 21 final at Bruce Pulman Park. The top qualifiers took a 32-13 win over Karaka in the championship final.
Patumahoe Pak N Save made it four championships on the bounce as they withstood a spirited Karaka side in the Under 85kg final. Brad Healy’s side was tested in a tight first half before showcasing their class in the second spell to win the match 24-6.