What a way to respond to a benching from Taradale hooker Ellery Tareha.
"I was benched for the first time this season because my lineout throws weren't straight last week. Hopefully I won't be benched for the final after today," Tareha said on Saturday.
He shouldn't be. Having taken the field with seven minutes remaining, Tareha, 27, scored the match-winning try in the final play of the game to give Carters Frame and Truss Taradale a 25-22 semifinal win against defending champions Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports at Tareha Reserve and a berth in this Saturday's final against Napier Old Boys Marist at Napier's McLean Park.
This was another memorable chapter in the father of two's return to premier play. He last played at this level as a 19-year-old and last year turned out for the club's third division team.
"I really want my blazer for 50 games next year," Tareha said. If his team can reproduce another upset this weekend he could have a winner's medal before his blazer.
The visitors led 15-3 playing with the wind, before Taradale's inspirational captain and blindside flanker Andrew Gardner scored a crucial try just ahead of halftime.
Gardner and prop Joe Simeon were key architects as Taradale continued to claw their way back in the second half. Pirate head coach Andy Lord agreed his players didn't play the territory game enough.
"That was the instruction but the emotions associated with the intense battle took over and they drifted away from the plan."
Centre Matt Garland and winger Tione Hubbard were classy on attack in the Pirate backline and second five-eighth Hayden Hann was a rock on defence. Lock Marcus Donovan and No8 Aaron McPhee were prominent in a pack which had no passengers.
Taradale head coach Jason Shoemark was proud of the way his troops dealt with the pressure and agreed Gardner's first-half try was crucial. He added it was too early to say whether or not Tareha would start in the final.
NOBM 18 Havelock 16
Second five-eighth Sam Giddens was the toast of the HBI Insurances Napier Old Boys Marist team after his 84th-minute penalty goal secured this Park Island victory and a berth in Saturday's final.
"While it was rewarding to get a shot at the title after everything we've done this year Havelock were unlucky. They made less errors than us and outplayed us but didn't come away with the spoils ... our passion got us there," NOBM head coach Craig Gowler said.
"Havelock's experience for playoff footy showed for most of the match," he added.
Along with Giddens, centre Migao Lauano operated well in the winning backline. Lock Tom Bywater and substitute loosie Hannon Brighouse provided plenty of grunt to the winning engine room.
Progressive Meats Havelock North head coach Murdoch Paewai was proud of the competitive performance his troops produced but was disappointed one cruel call cost them the match and an opportunity to give retiring stalwarts Luke Ottley and Adam Bradey a title-winning send-off. Paewai's twin sons, Kalin and Jesse, combined well in the villagers' midfield.
Another two of his relations, halfback Isaac Paewai and first five-eighth Ethan Bradey, were constructive generals. Prop Emmanuel Maui was a menace on defence and powerful on the carry.
Tamatea 47 Eskview 17
Fullback Ash Robinson was an influential figure for his Tamatea side in this promotion-relegation match at Bill Mathewson Park.
His team led 30-0 at halftime and Eskview did well to score 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to have a sniff at a memorable comeback. Their hopes were boosted when Robinson's father Jason was sinbinned, and while the veteran was getting his breath back his team scored three unanswered tries to guarantee premier status for the 2017 season.
Prop Jimmy Chettleburgh, first five-eighth Liam McFarland and winger Carl Miller were valuable contributors to Eskview's cause.