It will go down as the longest game in the history of Horowhenua-Kāpiti club rugby.
The senior final between Paraparaumu and College Old Boys at Levin Domain yesterday
The sun had gone down on Moutere Hill on the horizon to the west, and still they played on. The lights at Levin Domain had to be switched on.
Neither team would yield. The scores were tied at the end of 80 minutes at 23-all. At the end of an extra 20 gruelling minutes, the scores were still level at 33-all - so the game was forced into golden-point extra time.
To a man, the teams were forced to call on energy reserves they didn't know existed. With every extra minute they had to go deeper into that well, driven on by determination alone. Numerous players were felled by cramp attacks.
Heartbreak was hanging in the cool air for one of these brave sides. It found its mark with the piercing sound of a referee's whistle, giving Paraparaumu fullback Thomas Barnsley a kickable penalty.
The whistle for offside play came five minutes and 37 seconds into the second round of extra time.
The gallant COB players could only watch, hands on hips, as Barnsley guided the ball over their heads and through the uprights.
In their corner, silence, but for consoling words. Tears were shed. Contrast this to the elation of the Paraparaumu team. Yelling, whooping, hugging, and tears of pure joy.
There was so little between the two teams, yet their emotions after the game were light years apart. Such is the nature of sport.
Allowing for stoppages and a short break between "games", by the time referee Stu Thompson blew the final whistle it was nearly 5.30pm. The after-match presentation was held in near darkness as the twilight vanished.
Extra time in rugby finals to find a clear winner in the event of a drawn result was a relatively new thing, though, first brought in by HKRU in 2009.
Bizarrely, the competition has seen a large number of drawn finals in recent times.
The last time Paraparaumu and COB met in a Ramsbotham Cup final was on the same ground in 2016. That game went into extra time, too, with Paraparaumu scoring an unanswered try in extra time.
In 2010, Paraparaumu beat Waikanae in extra time after that match was drawn. But in extra time Paraparaumu forward Woodward broke a leg, badly.
The game stopped while an ambulance was called. By the time that game finished it was 6.30pm.
In 2000, when Athletic and Wanderers were tied at the end of an epic 80 minutes at Levin Domain, the whistle blew and the two teams shared the spoils, as were the rules of the day.
If the 2021 final had gone through to the end of the second lot of extra time without result, the winner would have been decided on tries scored, which had Paraparaumu as victors 4-3.
Paraparaumu player-coach Garry Phelps, 34, hadn't planned to inject himself into the game, but with fatigue and cramp felling players all around him - he simply had no choice.
When captain and lock Ryan Shelford blew his hamstring, a reshuffle forced Phelps to join the midfield.
"Honestly, I wasn't even going to play," he said.
"For me it's tough because you have to give credit to Old Boys for the way they fought every step of the way. Credit to them. We felt calm and composed but they always managed to score points at crucial moments," he said.
Phelps said they had talked of the importance of staying calm if the game ever went to sudden death.
"The call was to be patient. The last thing you want to do is take a stab from nowhere and give them the ball back," he said.
COB scored shortly before fulltime with a runaway try to Anthony Fuauli to keep their hopes alive, while it was a brilliant individual try to first five Lennox Tovo at the end of extra time that dared them to dream.
Tovo and Himiona Henare shared the kicking duties for COB and added points at vital stages. Their other try was by lock Malua Alatina.
It was a relief for Phelps as he made some tough selections decisions ahead of the game, including playing matchwinner Barnsley at fullback when he had been at halfback all year.
But the philosophy was to always reward form, and for that reason Shaun Gardiner was named to start at halfback.
"There were some tough calls, but you live and die by the sword," he said.
What made the win more special was that Paraparaumu is in its 100th centenary year. During the celebration weekend earlier in the year they had managed to beat top-of-the-table Rahui, but Phelps said it meant additional expectation for the final.
"It added a lot more pressure. You're trying to do the club proud in such a big year. The pressure was huge," he said.
It was Phelps' seventh - and probable most memorable - Ramsbotham Cup win. Other players to notch seven titles were captain Ryan Shelford and hooker Ollie Barr.
They also had some youngsters playing their first final, like impressive prop James Gilland
and teenagers Ben Foley and Darren Falaniko.
Paraparaumu's tries went to No 8 Bradley Reilly, second five-eighth Tautau Kapea, prop Gilland and winger Jared Verney.
COB won the scrum battle. They were noticeably bigger and on more than one occasion had the opposition backpedalling.
Horowhenua-Kāpiti chief executive Corey Kennett commended both sides on a brilliant spectacle.
He revealed that the scoreboard almost went dead, due to the extended game time and long stoppages of play. Its batteries only just held on.
"We were crossing our fingers," he said.
Regarding the length of the game, Kennett said nobody wanted to share a championship and believed it was good to have a winner and a loser, even if it had gone to a penalty shoot-out with kicks at goal.
"Nobody wants to share a trophy. It's like kissing your sister," he said.
It wasn't just players that cramped up or came off injured. Touch judge Greg McCardle blew a hamstring and had to be replaced by Sam Taylor, who was in charge of the earlier game.
That match was the reserve grade final, where saw Athletic withstood a spirited comeback from College Old Boys to win 33-25, after looking home and hosed with a 26-3 lead early in the second half.
After dominating territory and possession for much of the first 50 minutes, the tide turned as COB went up a gear and started finding space out wide.
With 10 minutes to go COB looked like they were going to pull off a mighty comeback, but Athletic hung tough and managed to swing momentum back their way in what was a nail-biting final 10 minutes.
COB replacement winger Christian Tahiwi-McMillan had a big impact on the match, coming on early in the second half and looked dangerous with every touch.
A turning point in the game was a kick charge-down by Athletic loose forward Bradman Franks that led to a try.
The match was stopped for 10 minutes due to a sickening head clash that left a player from either side sprawled on the ground as they were attended to by medical staff.
It was Athletic's first title win in 10 years. Standout players were fullback Chris Salu, centre Gregor McGregor and halfback Dominic Everitt.
Ramsbotham Cup - Senior Final
Paraparaumu 36 (J Gilland, B Reilly, T Kapea, J Verney tries, T Barnsley two con, four pen)
College Old Boys 33 (L Tovo, M Alatina, A Fuauli tries, H Henare two pen, one con, L Tovo two pen, two con).
Halftime: 13-10. Fulltime: 23-23. Extra time: 33-33. Golden point extra time: 36-33.