Te Puna just held on to beat Rangataua 22-19 to clinch the final of the Vaughan Kuka Memorial 10-a-side Tournament played in scorching conditions at Maramataga Park on Saturday.
Rugby 10s began in the 1960s and the Te Puna event was first staged in 1998.
On Saturday 16 teams entered in what proved a stern test of pre-season fitness levels that attracted an excellent crowd of 1000.
To make the final, Te Puna beat Rangiuru 21-0 while Rangataua defeated a strong Ngati Hangarau team (Bethlehem) 24-21.
We played with 12 or 13 players when you're supposed to have 15 so we knew we were going to have to dig right in till the end.
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The final pushed fitness levels to the max, with 15-minute halves played instead of the normal 10.
The home team opened the scoring with a try to Courtney Mita after a barnstorming run sent defenders flying.
Rangataua's strong pack then caused a mistake behind Te Puna's scrum, which led to a try for Chris Adamson, converted by Joel Little.
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Rangataua, fresh from competing at the national club sevens finals in Wellington, went further ahead when Ainsley Skudder slipped down the blindside from a scrum and scampered 40 metres to score unopposed.
Te Puna rallied with two quick tries to Resden Hirama and inspirational captain Te Aihe Toma to lead 15-12 at halftime.
The fatigue levels meant less structured play in the final 15 minutes with plenty of yellow cards, and close calls for both defences.
Kiri Ormsby wrested the lead back for Rangataua with a well taken try but Toma was unstoppable from a ruck near the Rangataua line to score the matchwinner.
Bay of Plenty Steamers halfback Toma says it was a tough final to cap a long, tiring day.
"We got a few injuries as the day went on. We played with 12 or 13 players when you're supposed to have 15 so we knew we were going to have to dig right in till the end. We had to play to our game plan and control the game," he said.
Toma says the win was an emotional one for all the players and the wider Te Puna club members.
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"It is everything really. As a young lad I grew up and was told by all the old folks about this Vaughan Kuka trophy. I actually started when I was 14. It grows on you as you grow older and it is a part of me now. Every year I plan to play it.
"Club rugby means everything, especially Te Puna. I was born and raised out here. It is pretty much where my roots are and where it all started. Without this club I don't know where I'd be."
Whakarewarewa defeated Arataki to take third place.