Tauranga Boys' and Rotorua Boys' First XVs turned on a classic nailbiter in the opening Super Eight match of the year at Nicholson Field on Saturday.
The 20-20 draw was fortunate in the end for Tauranga as Rotorua captain Isaac Te Aute missed a straight-forward conversion attempt in the final play of the match.
Turning over the ball was an issue for both teams but there was plenty to like about the energy and the defensive efforts from all players.
Rotorua looked impressive with ball in hand but missed their usual first-five Ma'ake Taulahi and the confidence they showed in beating Hamilton Boys' and Tauranga Boys' over the past fortnight.
The opening quarter of the match replicated last week's Chiefs Cup final between the teams with Tauranga starting strongly, before Rotorua gradually took control.
Tauranga No8 Caleb Aperahama opened the scoring when he charged 20 metres for a well-taken try after good build-up work from outstanding front rower Kemble Frost.
The simple conversion was missed though, which was crucial in the final outcome.
Te Aute reduced the gap with a penalty and Rotorua looked certain to score after a barnstorming run from No8 Viliame Tosi led to a sprint for the line for left winger Corban Selwyn. But he was cut down by a great covering tackle from Tauranga's captain and fullback Connor Fifita.
Rotorua's lively halfback Te Ra Whata then scampered away for a try in the corner, which Te Aute converted well from touch for a 10-5 halftime lead.
Tauranga came out firing in the second half, with prop Leighton Hika crashing over for a try before a clever kick into space by Te Aute was turned into a try for winger Latu Vaeno after a fortuitous bounce.
Replacement halfback Carlos Price kicked a penalty to close Rotorua's lead to 15-13. Tauranga's back three of Fifita and wingers Ryan Carroll and Christian Kelly, the school's nationally ranked 100m sprinters, then combined in a slick move which Kelly finished well in the corner.
Price slotted the conversion expertly to put Tauranga ahead 15-10 with five minutes left but they were unable to hold out the final storming finish from Rotorua, with hooker Jesse Mason-Grant getting the final try.
Tauranga Boys' host New Plymouth Boys' High next Saturday in round two.
Tauranga Boys' College 20 (Caleb Aperahama, Leighton Hika, Christian Kelly tries; Carlos Price con, pen) Rotorua Boys' College 20 (Te Ra Whata, Latu Vaeno, Jesse Mason-Grant tries; Isaac Te Aute con, pen). HT: 10-5 RBHS.