Larenz Thomsen kicked a conversion from out wide with time expired to beat Karaka 25-24 and ensure the McNamara Cup stays with Manurewa for another year after one of the most dramatic finishes in history on Saturday.
Down by 13 with a few minutes remaining, Manurewa scored to give themselves a sniff at Navigation Homes Stadium in front of a big crowd, split down the middle with support for the two clubs.
A penalty helped them exit their own end and they needed to score a converted try from a line-out on halfway on the last play if they were to retain the Cup they won a year ago.
As Manurewa made a run down the short side, they a great pass from Ioane Moananu found some space in the backfield and Thomsen ran 20 metres to score a try to close to within a point.
With time gone, he had a kick that would determine the outcome of the game and indeed the entire championship.
The former Karaka player calmly slotted the conversion to send his team into raptures and completed arguably the greatest get-out-of-jail move in the history of the McNamara Cup.
“The bench came on and just lifted. I am lost for words. That is an unbelievable finish. Larenz deserves everything,” an emotional and ecstatic Jeremy Clark told Counties Sports Hub post-game.
“I said at halftime we would score two tries and kick a winner and what have we done?
“All we heard about all year was we have lost all of our players – this new group would always lift. They believe in themselves. The work we put in – it has paid off. We have gone back-to-back. Noone said we could do it and we have just done it.
“Last year was awesome but this group has just worked so hard. No names, just workers and grinders and we have gone back-to-back.
“This team sticking together, working hard could go years and years.”
It caps a remarkable late season rally from Clark and his side. They had to battle until the back end of the round robin just to secure a playoff berth, weeks after Karaka, Pukekohe and Patumahoe had booked a semi-final spot.
They had to go the home of their archrivals Pukekohe to play the top seeds in the semi-finals and they rallied to win that game.
And then they did the unthinkable and produced a performance for the ages for the second year running to lift the McNamara Cup and add to their unprecedented tally.
Karaka will be hurting – they did everything possible to secure a second McNamara Cup in three seasons.
After conceding the opening 10 points to Manurewa, Karaka got into their work and controlled the game for the most-part.
They did little wrong but were simply beaten by a team that went in and grabbed the game with a couple of outstanding plays.
Karaka will take some comfort in a phenomenal season for the club as they added the Bob Chandler Cup to their trophy cabinet thanks to a 36-23 win over Patumahoe in the final.
Patumahoe, the top qualifiers through pool play, went ahead in the game after halftime and looked like they might run away with it.
But the Karaka bench made a significant impact, and they came home with a wet sail to secure victory and redress last season’s result in the final.
Drury finally broke their Sid Marshall Shield duck and completed another outstanding season as they edged Te Kohanga 17-13 on Navigation Homes Stadium number 2.
The game was played in great spirits between two very good sides and little separated them.
Te Kohanga had their chances to win the game, but Drury scored to re-take the lead with seven minutes to play and did not relinquish it.
It caps a run over the past three seasons where Drury has arguably been the best team in the competition only to lose a final and a semi-final and fall just short.
That would not be the case in 2023.
Waiuku stormed to a 29-15 win over Patumahoe to win their first U85kg championship and complete a superb season.
They topped the round robin, won a close semi-final and then proved too strong for the five-time champions in the decider.
Wesley College 1st XV picked up a 45-0 win over Pukekohe High School in the 1st XV Chiefs Top 4 competition at Pukekohe High School on Saturday.
website by 72DPI