There is nothing quite like a 130th anniversary year to bring the best out in any rugby team.
The Ōhaupō Senior A team capped their club's momentous 2018 with a remarkable come-from-behind 25-22 victory over Pirongia in an epic Waikato division 1A final at the Ōhaupō Domain on Saturday.
Pirongia had one hand on the trophy, leading 22-13 with only 15 minutes left on the clock.
At this point one of the Ōhaupō replacement players received a red card, further compounding the home team's plight.
But rather than have adverse effects, the sending off seemed to unite the remaining Ōhaupō XIV who lifted the intensity, taking it to their now confident opposition.
After a series of attempts at the Pirongia line by the forwards, it was halfback Scotty Thomas, all 65kg of him, who forced his way over for the try. His conversion reduced the deficit to two points, 22-20, still in Pirongia's favour.
At this point Ōhaupō was playing the better footy but with only four minutes left on the clock all the promise in the world can't beat points on the board.
Step up Cam Eketone.
In his debut season for Ōhaupō, Eketone was a standout player all day. Seeing space on the right hand side, the winger motioned to halfback Thomas who was at the base of the ruck some 25 metres away.
With the Pirongia defence all up flat and out numbering the attacking Ōhaupō line, Thomas chipped for the corner.
It seemed like the whole side line held their breath as they watched the ball in flight.
For all money the kick looked to be weighted too strongly but on impact with the ground it reverse spun to sit up over the try line and just inside the touch line for Eketone to ground before he headed over the touch line.
At this point the sideline Ōhaupō supporters went ballistic. Had Ōhaupō pulled off the unthinkable?
With two minutes to play, Pirongia threw everything at the opposition, having them camped on their own line. However, with a couple of crucial calls going Ōhaupō's way, Pirongia just couldn't get the winning points.
With a free kick awarded to Ōhaupō, Thomas tapped the ball and kicked it into touch to which the Ōhaupō supporters invaded the paddock and the celebrations started.
After Ōhaupō had won the first two games between the teams this season, Pirongia went into Saturday's game determined to put things right.
The game started with a moment's silence for one of Pirongia RFC's legends Neil 'Feefi' Findsen after the team was led onto the field by his sons.
The Mountain Men should be proud of the way they stood up for the occasion. Every player who took the field gave everything they had.
"Sometimes the bounce of the ball may seem unfair but the great thing about sport is both the triumphs and the defeats and the way we respond to them," said Pirongia coach, Mark Evans.
Ōhaupō opened the scoring after 15 minutes when play went down the left flank and a grubber kick was put through to the corner, resulting in veteran winger Steve Hamilton beating two Pirongia defenders to ground the ball.
Scotty Thomas, who has been sensational all season, had an off day with his place kicking and missed his first shot of the day.
Pirongia gained some field position and it wasn't long before the ball was moved swiftly to lock Aaron Leppard who broke a tackle on the way to the line and touched down near the posts for Curtis Gibson to convert.
Gibson then added a penalty to have the visitors in high spirits and Ōhaupō clearly looking a bit stressed, trailing 10-5.
Hard running Ōhaupō No. 8 Karl Palaone went on one of his trade mark runs to score five minutes short of halftime for a 10-10 scoreline.
While Ōhaupō had the better of the first half, Pirongia looked threatening when they had the ball in good field position. This was emphasised on the resumption in play.
Pirongia went onto the attack and after several promising attacks broke down, it was Scott Sands who finished off an attack by juggling the ball before regathering and touching down adjacent to the posts, giving Gibson another comfortable conversion.
The Mountain Men appeared to take control of the game when winger Sam Hunter crashed over from a well worked blindside move, giving the visitors a nine point lead entering the final 15 minutes.
However, Ōhaupō again punished them for failing to effectively exit from the kick off. A knock-on gave the home side the ball and the rest is history.