Like it or not, the perceived Hollywood performances were coming thick and fast from Uruguayan import striker Martin Bueno in multiple takes despite a cameo appearance from the bench but there was no arguing the Oscars belonged to starters Liam Schofield and Karan Mandair in Napier today. Not that it mattered who got to walk the red carpet of New Zealand's marquee footballing theatre of dreams after Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers booked a Chatham Cup final berth against Melville United at QBE Stadium in Auckland in a fortnight.
Just as they had done in the quarter-finals victory against Albany United, the James Hoyle-skippered Rovers took the Bluewater Stadium faithful through another rollercoaster ride at Park Island but this time the 2-1 result was dusted in 30 minutes of extra time and the lottery of penalty kicks avoided. The sides couldn't find the net in regulation time although the visitors' did once but it was deemed offside.
Rovers drew the first blood, 1-0, from left wing back Schofield in the second minute of extra time and then centre midfielder Karan Mandair added some stinging salt to Onehunga Sports' gaping wound just four minutes later to make it 2-0.
"Oh what a feeling to play in the semifinal of the Chatham Cup," said the 25-year-old from Barnsley, Yorkshire, as the Blues milled in front of the main grand stand to appraisal from their ecstatic fans.
"It's just unbelievable," he said, grinning from ear to ear. "What a moment and what a moment for the club as well ... because finishing second as well in the league was a great achievement."
The forest greens played into a hanging gusty westerly in the first half, driving obliquely from the hockey turf end towards the city end on a balmy 19C day.
Schofield said the halftime message was simple — dig in deep into that horrible wind.
What made it worse for the visitors was losing their centre back/captain Joe Dawkins in the penultimate minute of that first spell after a second yellow card — the first one due to a tangle with Bueno.
A further blow came when substitute Lovemore was yanked out when the second 15-minute spell resumed, with Stafford Dowling replacing him, which often isn't a good sign for any team.
However, the forest greens had hit against the run of play from rightback Robert Tipelu following a cornerkick in the 111th minute, not long after Bueno had held the game at ransom with another injury to the mirth of Onehunga livestreaming commentators.
"We just dug in and put our bodies on the line so we were amazing," Schofield said.
The forager said the Rovers starters had expended their collective energy in extra time but it had seemed as if Onehunga had found a second wind in extra time although the westerly had subsided by then.
Player/coach Bill Robertson and his Beefeaters had done a sterling job for the most part while goalkeeper Joshua Hill again had the Midas touch, frustrating Onehunga scavengers time and again.
Former Hawke's Bay United defender Ross Haviland, who had Onehunga followers consoling him because "he really wanted it bad", said it just wasn't meant to be.
"If you look at the game you'll probably see we had dominated but, unfortunately, if you don't have the quality in the final third, you know, then you don't have that luck they say so that's just not going to be your day," Haviland lamented.
The 27-year-old centre back said they had chucked the kitchen sink into the match but the 2017 champions' campaign had come to an end.
Haviland also bemoaned having to play catch-up Northern Premier League encounters in the week leading up to the cup semifinal.
"We've been stitched up in the league with back-to-back-to-back four games in 11 days coming [here] so the league hasn't done us any favours.
"We've had to manage injuries and suspensions so it's been very tough," he said, revealing the first half into the wind had knocked out their stuffing a little.
Haviland said Onehunga didn't appreciate Buenos' antics either.
"It's a bit embarrassing, if you ask me, but, hey, that's how he plays so he gets the ref's attention.
"Hey, it's worked for him and he's done a good job because he's come on and changed the game a little bit but you can tell from the crowd's reactions that he's not a favourite here," he said, wishing four-time champions Rovers all the best against a "tough" Melville United.
Mandair, who is off to the United States on a footballing scholarship, was delighted to have given the Blues some breathing space soon after Schofield's first cut.
"The ball came out to me and I hit it the first time and it's gone under the keeper," said the 19-year-old who saw it as his last Chatham Cup playoffs for the next few years.
"During the warm up I was banging in a few," he said with a grin, adding Onehunga had put them under the kosh with their corner kicks curling in with the help of the westerlies.
"In the end we've got the win and that's what matters."
Veteran striker Joshua Stevenson had beaten Tipelu near the corner flag before crossing to find striker Jonny McNamara whose reverse scissors kick went wide off the upright in the 10th minute.
Onehunga left winger Jack Duncan made the visitors' intentions clear when he rifled a shot from inside the 18m box but put too much muscle into it as Hill was equal to the occasion in the 19th minute.
The game had stopped briefly in the 22nd minute when Blues right wing back Jamie Wilkinson required some attention after an aerial head clash.
Onehunga right winger Jake Porter had a glorious chance in the 34th minute but a foul from a teammate saw referee Antony Riley award a free kick to the Rovers although Hill had saved the shot. Two minutes later Porter asked the question again only to have Hill reply with interest, flicking the ball over the crossbar.
Riley had no hesitation flashing a yellow card at Duncan after a studs-up challenge on Wilkinson in front of the wooden stand in the 42nd minute.
Onehunga started the second half with some zest, using the wind, as the hosts seemed content to sit back to thwart although Stevenson had a chance but chose to unsuccessfully try to cross from inside the box rather than pull the trigger.
Assistant coach Stu James had pulled out Stevenson and replaced him with last season's Central League golden boot, Bueno, not long after.
Solomon Islands international Andrew Abba, again used off the bench, came on the wing for Wilkinson in the 63rd minute to light the fuse for the hosts.
Haviland had tucked the ball into the net from a long-range free kick but the referee's assistant, Trent Pedley, had his flag up for an offside in the 66th minute.
Japan import midfielder Sho Goto got a don't-argue yellow card from Riley after disputing a challenge on him from compatriot Kenta Saito in the 69th minute.
A minute later Goto put his body on the line from a pin-ball attacking opportunity from Onehunga where even the crossbar came into play three times from two back-to-back corner kicks.
It was Tipelu's turn to collect a yellow card when he dangled a lazy leg as Abba tried to make a run down his right flank in the 71st minute.
Unfortunately, Blues midfielder Gavin Hoy wasn't having a good day, allowing Onehunga defenders to beat him to the ball on numerous occasions from behind rather than running towards the passes.
Riley had to call in both skippers after Bueno and Dawkins started exchanging handbags in the 79th minute, eventually leading to the latter's first yellow.
McNamara had an ideal time to break the deadlock after Abba worked it up — following an offside call on Bueno earlier — and flicked it to Hoy who had pushed it to the red-headed Englishman only to have him hit it wide off the upright in the 82nd minute.
Onehunga coach Hiroshi Miyazawa made his first change, bringing in a thigh-strapped Lovemore for Saito in the 86th minute. Four minutes of time were added to the regulation time.
However, a ruffled Onehunga player, Jordan Vale, received a yellow card, too, for dissent after Bueno went down, not long after Miyazawa had left his coach's box to urge the Uruguayan to get up after he went down clutching his left eye.
He was down again five minutes into the second half of extra time, holding the game up for a few minutes.
Onehunga's Andrew Milne also collected a yellow card for dissent from Riley late in extra time after tangling with Bueno.
Fourth official Martin Roil had added two minutes, which seemed like ages for the Blues fans who had intended to celebrate at the clubrooms long into the night.