Whangamata Area School 1st XV backed up the town's reputation for rugby with a last minute try securing an incredible win over rivals Mercury Bay Area School in Waihi on Saturday.
Waihi Athletic Rugby Football Club played host to the TVRFU Secondary School Finals Day.
Whangamata took home the 1st XV Plate Final, Allen Fisher Cup.
Four matches were played, with the quality of all four battles played at a fantastic standard, said TVRFU Development Officer Scott Day.
This made for an exciting spectacle for the supporters around the boundary fence and viewers who watched the livestream via the Thames Valley Rugby Facebook page.
At the 59 minute mark, the Whangamata side was on 20 to Mercury Bay's 24 before ending the game 25-24.
A spirited comeback by Whangamata Area School went right down to the 74th minute, with fullback Rory Bathurst edging himself over the try-line to earn Whangamata Area School the Allen Fisher for the first time ever and setting off celebrations around the park.
Rory was instrumental in the comeback, as well as open-side flanker Jonathan Handy who was a workhorse throughout the match. For Mercury Bay Area School prop William Hau-Mirko and second five-eighth Te Whatiki Childs-Katene were outstanding with ball in hand.
WAS Principal Alistair Luke said it was an outstanding team performance that showed grit, determination and pride.
The team has four sets of brothers including Luke and Quinn Stowers, Anaru and Kyber Te Huia, Rory and Joel Bathurst and BT and Zac Anderton.
Bob Scott's great-grandson Callum Whatley, team captain, held the Cup high with the team cheering at a volume that made up for any spectators unable to get close due to level 2 Covid-19 rules.
His dad Rod was among the coaching team and able to be there on the sideline.
"At half time it was 24-10 to Mercury Bay and we just kept chipping away and got more points. With one minute to go I heard Mercury Bay say oh we've won the game," said Rod.
"Jonathan Handy went to score the try but it was disallowed. We went to a 5 metre scrum and we put the ball in, it went out to the backs, Rory got it and we scored the try.
"That was on the last minute."
A breakfast was held at the rugby club prior, where the strategies were shared and a bus took the team over to Waihi at 9.30am.
The team and school gave a "massive" thank you to Errol Gilbert, head coach, Te Awharoa assisting, manager Ros Handy, Musky Bathurst and Rod Whatley for their support and coaching along with head of sport Brendon McKeown for his coaching and support during the season.
"The boys had a fantastic season and played as a team, picking each other when the need arose and then celebrating the successes together," said Alistair.
"This is a team we thought would reach its strongest point in the cycle this year and they have. They had to cope with the Covid challenges and beat Waihi twice and Mercury Bay twice, who are traditional rivals."
The U15 Boys Grand Final (Passey Cup) was up next with reigning champions Waihi College taking on the undefeated Mercury Bay Area School.
This was always going to be a high-quality game of U15 Rugby, and Waihi College were the first to show their cards shooting out to a 19-0 lead through sharp attacking play by Kellim Ropiha and Max Baker.
Although a bit shaken being behind on the scoreboard, the Mercury Bay Area School reserves provided strong impact from the bench and worked their way back into the match.
Captain Brodie Springer led well from the front with several strong carries, whilst winger Kevin Zhu was damaging out wide with pace and determination. Leading 26-19 with 5 minutes left on the clock, Waihi struggled to get out of their own 22m zone, spilling the ball and leaving Mercury Bay Area School one more opportunity to snatch something from the game.
Fortunately for Mercury Bay Area School, they held possession and dotted over the line which meant a successful conversion would tie the game up.
The 1st XV Boys Grand Final (Coulter Cup) was an absolute belter between Hauraki Plains College 1st XV and Paeroa College 1st XV. Paeroa College started out of the blocks quickly scoring in the 5th minute of the game. This put a lot of pressure on Hauraki Plains College, as for the first time in 2020 they found themselves behind on the scoreboard.
Paeroa College then scored again, taking the score out to 10-0 and piling the pressure on to Hauraki Plains College. Finally, Hauraki Plains College got themselves back into the match building long phases of play and were rewarded with points. This was just the momentum swing that Hauraki Plains College needed, piling on the pressure and getting into the box seat at 20-10.
Paeroa College never gave up, getting within 3 points with 10 minutes left on the clock, however the fitter and more direct Hauraki Plains College finished off a spectacular season with a 32-17 victory and going back to back with the Coulter Cup.
Halfback Luke Hill was outstanding for Hauraki Plains College, directing his troops around the field well and was awarded the MVP for the match. Ben McIntosh was at his finishing best out wide and showed strength and skill to score two tries. Kyle Parker ran the cutter well at first five-eighth for Paeroa College and hooker Kiwa Wehipeihana was busy in the tight exchanges up front.