Every now and then a sporting event produces scenes the greatest script writers would be proud of. The Women's Intercity Hockey final on Saturday was one of those occasions.
The Rotorua Aces showed pure fighting spirit and nerves of steel to win an extra time shootout against Mount Maunganui, after trailing 3-0 at halftime but fighting back to 3-all at the end of normal time.
A passionate home crowd roared the Aces home as Mount Maunganui, playing in their first final, were left to rue a missed opportunity.
Aces co-coach Jan Nikora was immensely proud of the way her side got back in the game.
"It had to happen. That first half they played very uncharacteristic hockey, compared to what they've played all season, and they got a nice little rev up to remind them why they're here. They clawed back in the second half and played the sort of hockey we've played all year. The second half was awesome."
Mount Maunganui took a one-goal lead in the first quarter when Gemma Lucas scored from a penalty corner. They extended that lead to 3-0 in the second quarter thanks to a quick fire double to Abbie Johnston, both on the counter-attack.
In the second half, the Aces took their game to another level and piled pressure on Mount Maunganui, dominating territory and possession. Goals to Chelsea Hepi and Stacey MacDonald got them back in the game and they trailed 3-2 with a quarter left to play.
The Aces threw everything at Mount Maunganui in the final quarter but it was starting to look like it was not their day as countless goal scoring opportunities went begging.
With minutes left on the clock, it was all or nothing for the home side and finally they made the breakthrough, Katerina O'Callaghan finishing off an attacking move to send the crowd wild and the match to a shootout.
Aces goalkeeper Georgia Ogilvie was the hero of the shootout, stopping Mount Maunganui's first three attempts to set the platform for an epic victory.
Nikora said it had been a "very successful" season.
"These girls have just grown every game, every training, everyone has just gotten closer and closer together. It's been really, really awesome.
"Mount had a bone to pick with us, we've pipped them twice this season, and when they came out and put all that pressure on us I thought they might've had it in the bag but we just had to stay in it."
She said there were plenty of nerves in the shootout but it was nice to see the goalkeeper, often an unsung hero, step up and have her moment.
"We had to have faith in our goalie, it's a huge moment for her."
Mount Maunganui coach Narayan Singh was gracious in defeat.
"It was clearly a game of two halves. It was a good contest, there's no doubt about that. We had a pretty good first half and just the pressure got to us a little in the second. Aces played well, to their credit.
"We knew they'd never give up, they never do. They fight and scrap right to the end and they did really well."
Overall, he was pleased with the way his side had progressed throughout the season.
"We've had a fairly consistent season and we've played some really nice hockey along the way. Obviously the girls are pretty devastated with the end result but looking back at the season, it's been a successful one."
Meanwhile, CIP Collegians were crowned Intercity Men's champions after defeating University, also in a shootout.