"Head down, follow through ... head down, follow through ... head down, follow through."

That's what Hamish Buick was saying to himself as he lined up a kick that won his Rahui team the Horowhenua-Kāpiti club rugby championship.

In a thrilling match with Shannon at Levin Domain at the weekend, the 30-year-old ended up being the unlikely hero for Rahui, considering he came on late in the game as a reserve and hadn't taken a kick all season.

It was shades of Stephen "Beaver" Donald in the 2011 World Cup final for the All Blacks. At least Buick's jersey was the right size. Just.

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Rahui's Hamish Buick and manager Brett Karipa.
Rahui's Hamish Buick and manager Brett Karipa.

Buick last played for Rahui as a young man in 2009, and after a sojourn playing club rugby in other provinces like Otago and Wellington, he had returned home to play for his beloved Rahui this year.

Much like Donald, Buick wasn't the regular team kicker this season. It was only when winger Jack Tatu-Robinson was substituted that he was given the ball.

"It was my first kick all year," he said.

And the kick was certainly no gimme, and with just minutes to go, with Rahui trailing Shannon by 23-25, there could be no doubt it was a kick to win the game.

So what was he telling himself?

"Just head down, follow through. Simple as that," he said.

Rahui replacement winger Hamish Buick kicked the winning goal.
Rahui replacement winger Hamish Buick kicked the winning goal.

And that's exactly what happened. By the time Buick lifted his head, the ball was sailing through the middle of the posts.

As the clock ticked down, Rahui managed to hold Shannon out for what was an emotional win. There were a few tears shed from some of the Rahui players after the whistle.

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That's because, as the elation of victory washed over the team, their thoughts no doubt shifted to their coach Sam Doyle, who was forced to watch the game live from hospital.

Doyle was diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks into the season and is awaiting a bone marrow transplant. The emotion from the players was probably relief at having done the job for their coach.

Bill Doyle congratulates Rahui veteran prop Hadley Gardner and presents him with his medal after the Horowhenua-Kapiti club rugby final at the weekend.
Bill Doyle congratulates Rahui veteran prop Hadley Gardner and presents him with his medal after the Horowhenua-Kapiti club rugby final at the weekend.

Despite his absence, Doyle was still recognised as head coach of the team. He had watched games live-streamed and continued to offer pearls of wisdom to the team from afar.

Rahui club captain Mikaore Bevan-Wilson said he had read a message from Doyle aloud to the players, in the changing rooms under the grandstand before the game.

"Absolutely, it meant a lot," he said.

Rahui scored first through a Tatu-Robinson penalty, while Shannon hit back with a try to fullback Sean Pape, running on to a centring kick to score under the post.

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The trusty left boot of Arana Murphy was on target to add a penalty from wide out, giving Shannon a 10-6 lead.

Rahui fullback Levi Kemp is cut down in a tackle by Shannon's Arana Murphy.
Rahui fullback Levi Kemp is cut down in a tackle by Shannon's Arana Murphy.

The arm-wrestle continued, but when Shannon hooker Patohe Ropoama-Third was sin-binned just before halftime, there was a momentum shift.

Rahui exploited the advantage, scoring twice shortly before halftime, first to Manaia Osborne wide out, which needed a good conversion from Tatu-Robinson. He obliged.

Then, not long after the restart, Rahui broke the shackles again when halfback Ellison ran wide and passed an inside ball to fullback Levi Kemp to break the line. Kemp got an inside ball to Tatu-Robinson to score near the posts, which he duly converted.

Those two tries set Rahui up for a 20-10 halftime lead and they were always going to be hard to peg back.

The victorious Rahui team, winners of the 2020 Ramsbotham Cup Horowhenua-Kapiti club rugby competition.
The victorious Rahui team, winners of the 2020 Ramsbotham Cup Horowhenua-Kapiti club rugby competition.

But claw back Shannon did. Murphy added a penalty from out wide. Their big forwards toiled hard, mixing it up with short line-outs, and pressure led to a try to prop Zac Third, again converted out wide by Murphy to level the scores at 20-20.

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Tatu-Robinson kicked a penalty for Rahui, but it was 25-23 to Shannon when Carlos Third crossed for a try with less than 10 minutes to go.

Ultimately it was the pressure kick from Buick that edged Rahui ahead. Shannon did have their hands on the ball in the final phases, but Rahui - running on adrenaline by then - held them out to win, 26-25.

The score was 26-25 to Rahui with five minutes left in the Horowhenua-Kapiti club rugby final against Shannon at Levin Domain.
The score was 26-25 to Rahui with five minutes left in the Horowhenua-Kapiti club rugby final against Shannon at Levin Domain.

Shannon were magnificent in defeat. They had done everything they could to win the match and contributed to a brilliant spectacle. The Levin Domain surface was like a bowling green, as few games had been played on it this season.

There was a torrid tussle for the loose ball between Todd Shields, Moses Pearce and Logan Broughton for Shannon and Teariki Peneha, Carne Doyle-Manga and Joel Winterburn for Rahui.

The game was played in brilliant spirit, uncompromising and hard but with no hint of tempers being lost.

But it came down to the little things. An intercept early in the game by midfield back Jaxon Tagavaitu could have been the difference. He galloped the length of the field only to be cut down short of the line by Tatu-Robinson.

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It was Rahui's first competition win since 2011, made all the more remarkable considering they didn't field a team during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Horowhenua-Kapiti rugby coach Chris Wilton cut a lonely figure at the Levin Domain grandstand.
Horowhenua-Kapiti rugby coach Chris Wilton cut a lonely figure at the Levin Domain grandstand.

One surreal aspect of the game was the fact that no crowds were permitted due to Covid-19 restrictions, meaning just players and officials were permitted at the ground.

The grandstand was empty, but for one or two officials, amazing considering there was a crowd of 4000 expected given the teams involved in the finals were from all corners of the Horowhenua province.

In scenes unique to Levin Domain, there were crowds perched on the perimeter fences or strained to see through the iron bars at a distance. They provided just enough audio - oohs and ahhs - at the right time to break the eerie silence.

Brothers Brooklyn and Boston Kauri, 12, and 10, support their team from outside the Levin Domain gates.
Brothers Brooklyn and Boston Kauri, 12, and 10, support their team from outside the Levin Domain gates.

There was a big gap between games of more than an hour to allow changing rooms and seats to be disinfected, as per Covid-19 alert level 2 protocols.

Meanwhile, College Old Boys won the curtain-raiser match against Foxton 34-32.

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SCOREBOARD: Ramsbotham Cup: Rahui 26 (M Osborne, J Tatu-Robinson tries, Tatu-Robinson 2 con, 3 pen) beat Shannon 25 (Z Third, S Pape, C Third tries, A Murphy 2 con, 2 pen). Halftime 20-10.