Te Mataarae i Orehu have lost the crown of best kapa haka group in New Zealand after Te Waka Huia claimed the title for a record equalling fifth time.
The Auckland-based team have equalled Gisborne group Waihirere's record for most titles won when they were crowned in the sweltering heat at the Rotorua International Stadium yesterday.
Waka Huia last won the title in Tauranga in 2009 and had to overcome a spirited top nine finalists pool which included Te Arawa group and 2011 defending champions Te Mataarae i Orehu.
Te Mataarae went into battle yesterday for Te Arawa knowing they had underachieved on Saturday.
The last of six Te Arawa groups who competed for the title of champion at Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival, the group led by Wetini Mitai-Ngatai used one of the oldest military tactics in the book - the best form of defence is attack.
They did this with military precision. Their women, led by Miri Morrison-Hare, were smiling assassins using their weapons of choice - a mere and poi - with lethal effect. Their men were snarling, angry, war-painted warriors, whose stealth, power and grace were frightening but strangely fascinating.
Mataarae performer Talei Morrison admitted to The Daily Post the group performed below their usually high standard in their pool round on Saturday and were looking to counter the previous day's performance with a flawless routine yesterday.
"We definitely had to [lift]. We knew that we hadn't brought our A game and none of us could figure out why, although we sat around and talked about it," Ms Morrison said.
"Some reasons were maybe we were overwhelmed by the fact that we were the champs and the fact that there was so much expectation on us."
Ms Morrison said the team had given it their all yesterday and were proud of that fact.
Mr Mitai-Ngatai said the group's goal had been to go out in the final and improve on what they had done in the preliminary round.
"Well, we tried to capitalise on the mistakes we did on the first day. We were lucky enough to be there on the second day. So we had to do a better job and as long as we were happy coming off the stage and we had completed what we had planned to do.
"Then that was the strategy just to try and lift ourselves again. This was our last shot so let's give it our all as it was a very physical battle for us."
After their time on the battlefield, the scenes behind the stage were of jubilation and exhaustion. The group had given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears.
Despite Te Mataarae's epic effort the group was eventually outmanoeuvred by Te Waka Huia. The winners called on all their years of experience in national finals and like all nine groups lifted their game from their performance on day two.
The group's ability to sing as if with one voice and incorporate the sweet harmonies from their women was the winning formula.
Te Arawa didn't leave the competition empty handed, however, with Mr Mitai-Ngatai judged best male leader while his group also picked up best haka in the aggregate rounds as well as best poi in the non-aggregate round. Nga
Uri o Te Whanoa also won best waiata-a-ringa in the non-aggregate round.
Overall winner Te Matatini 2013:
1st Te Waka Huia
2nd Te Whanau-a-Apanui
3rd Tu Te Manawa Maurea, Te Iti Kahurangi and Whangara Mai Tawhiti
Kaitataki tane (male leader)
Wetini Mitai-Ngatai (Te Mataarae i Orehu)
Kaitataki wahine (female leader)
Tiare Kata Teinakore (Te Iti Kahurangi)
Te Iti Kahurangi
Te Iti Kahurangi
Te Iti Kahurangi
Opotiki Mai Tawhiti
Te Mataarae i Orehu