It's fair to say the odds were stacked against the Hastings Boys' High School under-14 rugby team at their Super 8 tournament in Palmerston North this week.
Their buildup for the Coronation Park-hosted event was far from ideal. The Matt Robertson-Quentin Crawford-coached side had only been able to play one game during a six-week period less than a month out from the tournament.
They were dominating their Hawke's Bay E grade competition and officials suggested they go up a grade and play against Year 11 and 12 students in an open weight grade despite the fact they were all playing under the weight limit.
In the interests of safety the coaches decided against going up a grade and most of their buildup was spent having games among themselves.
In Wednesday's final against New Plymouth Boys' High School, HBHS were down by 12 points with 10 minutes remaining but recovered to win 27-24. Winger James Craig scored on the last play of the game off an attack which began inside their own 22 to secure the win.
"It was a phenomenal achievement. The boys trained really hard and focused on values and discipline. They pulled together well to complete an unbeaten run for the tournament," Robertson said.
In pool play HBHS beat Napier Boys' High School 38-10, Tauranga Boys' College 24-8 and Rotorua Boys' High School 24-0.
While Craig, the 2017 Hawke's Bay Ross Shield player-of-the-tournament, captain and hooker Vikta Tevita, halfback Rylee Ward and flanker Junior Setu were particularly prominent Robertson said he and Crawford were proud of the entire squad of 23 players.
"Four or five of these boys will be eligible for the under-14s next year but we're expecting 80 per cent of them to make the school's under-15 team. We would like to go up with them but a decision on that will be made later in the year."
This is the second consecutive year Hastings Boys' have won the tournament which has been going since 2007.
In other playoffs on Wednesday Tauranga Boys' College beat Hamilton Boys' High School 24-10 in the battle for third, Rotorua Boys' High School beat Gisborne Boys' High School 12-7 in the tussle for fifth and Palmerston North Boys' High School beat Napier Boys' High School 27-0 for seventh.