Northland's women's rugby team have won their first ever Farah Palmer Cup game in the most thrilling of circumstances, winning 27-21 against North Harbour on Saturday.
A Semenoff Stadium bathed in sunlight played host to what would be one of the most exciting games of rugby ever witnessed by a small but vocal Whangārei crowd.
A last minute try from Northland number eight and playmaker Krystal Murray secured the win after North Harbour had held a 21-20 lead going into the last 10 minutes. Murray, whose penalty in the 78th minute ricocheted off the post, finished off a great period of pressure right on the North Harbour line to claim the Kauri's first win in their first Farah Palmer Cup season.
It was seemingly written in the stars as today's Northland Rugby double-header was themed "Wahine Day", commemorating the raft of women involved in the game in the region.
Both teams took the first 10 minutes to feel their way into the game. After a few handling errors from the two sides, Northland started to dominate through a string forward pack and a threatening backline.
Second five Stacey Tupe looked as dangerous as any player on the park with a number of line-breaking runs creating space for the home side.
The Kauri were clear favourites to score first after the majority of possession and territory in the first 25 minutes of the game. While they came away with two penalties through Murray, Northland couldn't complete the final phase to cross the North Harbour line.
Unfortunately for the home side, the visitors came to life with about 15 minutes to go in the first half, so much so that both territory and possession statistics favoured North Harbour at the break.
The visitors finally got their first points in the board after a consistent period of pressure five metres from Northland's line. After a quick tap, North Harbour prop Inga Timani crashed over in the left-hand corner which was expertly converted by lock Sophie Fisher to lead 7-6 with 10 minutes remaining.
Four minutes later, Timani was involved again in a great backline move which saw North Harbour centre Mikayla Robinson score the visitors' second converted try to lead 14-6.
While the Kauri exhibited stronger consistency earlier in the game, particularly at scrum time, crucial mistakes and a lack of patience was restricting the home side from making any inroads into North Harbour's lead.
In her halftime interview, Northland assistant coach Susan Dawson said she wanted an emphatic first 10 minutes from her team and she got exactly that as first five Tyler Nankivell crossed the North Harbour line after a great line break from left wing Savannah Bodman, six minutes after the break.
Converted by Murray, that put Northland trailing by 13 points to 14 and full of energy. The Kauri continued to raise their play, holding possession well. Nankivell hit her straps in the second half, showing her pace and ball-handling skills.
Murray featured again with 20 minutes left in the game, making a great run to get within five metres of the North Harbour line. When Northland were awarded right on the Harbour line, captain Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate used her Black Ferns experience, taking the quick tap and crashing through the defence to score.
A conversion from Murray stretched the home side's lead to 20-14 and with all the momentum going into the game's final stages. The threatening North Harbour team of the first half seemed missing in the second and Northland looked odds on to score again.
However, it was the visitors who scored next through electric winger Caitlyn Cox down the right-hand side with about 10 minutes to go. Another clutch conversion from Fisher earned back the lead and put the pressure back on the home side to score again to win.
That opportunity seemed to be through a penalty out on the right-hand side after Northland did well to move into North Harbour's 22-metre. When the kick agonisingly rebounded off the post, the Kauri fortunately secured possession and finally broke the line to win the game on the hooter.
Murray and Tupe were huge figures for Northland and showed their experience in a relatively young Kauri outfit. Going into the game Northland would have been buoyed by the fact that they had beaten North Harbour in preseason but no one would have expected how tight this game would be.
Nankivell was excellent with ball in hand and would have considered herself fortunate to work from a dominant Northland forward pack. As it was their first win ever at this competitive level, Northland will take enormous confidence from this ground-breaking win.
"Oh man that was so overwhelming, I'm so proud of our girls," Ngata-Aerengamate said.
The Black Fern hooker couldn't help but smile as she tried to put into words the monumental effort put in by her team.
"We may not be the fittest team, but we've got heart, I guess it overcomes everything else [because] you want it more, and that's what the girls portrayed out there, I'm just so proud of them."
Northland Kauri head coach Cheryl Smith couldn't hide her excitement as she walked across the field towards the section of roaring Northland fans. Smith said her team's defensive effort was the best she had seen yet.
"[Defence] is what we've been working on for the last two weeks and actually to see it happen was just awesome, you just felt like the girls had each other's back."
Smith, a former Black Fern, hoped this win would give her team confidence going into the remaining two regular season games.
"This is just our third game in and they're just starting to show stuff now, hopefully it just gives the girl that bit more belief that we can do this now."
Northland next play Taranaki in Inglewood on Friday before a home game against Tasman the following week.