They have been the best team all year but Mid Canterbury needed a last-minute try to sneak past West Coast today and set up a Meads Cup final against neighbours North Otago in the Heartland Championship.
Mid Canterbury were staring at elimination after West Coast scored a 78th-minute try to Rowan O'Gorman but the Hammers conjured up a winner with wing Willie McGoon scoring in injury-time. First five-eighths Murray Williams then added the conversion to rub salt into the West Coast wound.
The Coasters threw everything at the home side in their quest for a first Meads Cup final, and led 13-7 at halftime, but couldn't replicate the feats of the previous weekend when they toppled traditional heavyweights Wanganui at home.
It represents a good turnaround for Mid Canterbury, after their tumultuous 2012 campaign highlighted by the walkout of coach Chris Neill towards the end of the season.
They often punch above their weight, and were beaten Meads Cup finalists in both 2008 and 2009, but are playing well under former Highlanders coach and Otago assistant Glenn Moore in his first full season in charge.
Mid Canterbury will take on North Otago in Ashburton in next weekend's final, the only side to beat the Hammers so far this season - albeit by a one-point margin in Oamaru.
North Otago beat Wairarapa Bush 48-34 in Oamaru with both sides scoring six tries in a free-flowing affair but one the Old Golds were always in control of after they led 31-12 at halftime.
In the second tier Lochore Cup for teams finishing fifth to eighth, South Canterbury will face Buller in Timaru in a replay of last year's final. It means all three Hanan Shield sides - Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury and North Otago - will feature in finals.
South Canterbury beat Thames Valley 14-8 while Buller, the defending champions and country's smallest union, upset Wanganui 40-30.
South Canterbury will be looking to break their wretched run in finals - they have played in three Lochore Cup finals and lost them all.
Mid Canterbury 28 (Will McGoon 2, Johannes Lambrechts, Dwayne Burrowes tries; Murray Williams 4 cons) West Coast 25 (Andrew Williams, Andrew Connors, Rowan O'Gorman tries; Tim Priest 2 cons, 2 pens). HT: 7-13.
North Otago 48 (Sale Pi'i, Matt Duff, J'ndre Liebenberg, Rob Smith, Ratu Vaituinaruku, Simeli Knoiferedi tries; Ed Keohane 6 cons, 2 pens) Wairarapa Bush 34 (Richard Puddy 2, Byron Karaitiana 2, Johan van Vliet, Ben Pereria tries; Glenn Walters 2 cons).
South Canterbury 14 (George Folau try; Liam Edwards 3 pens) Thames Valley 8 (Josh Law try; David Harrison pens). HT: 3-5.
Wanganui 30 (Nick Cranston, Sailosi Nagicu, Zyon Hekenui, Lindsay Horrocks, Jason Temara tries; Hekenui con, pen) Buller 40 (Blair McIlroy 2, Mitieli Kaloudigibeci, Iliasi Namua, Phil Beveridge tries; Andrew Stevens 3 cons, 3 pens).