Despite falling at the final hurdle, the hard-edged ball-carrying and consistent physicality Northland players brought to this year's Mitre 10 Championship campaign have warmed the hearts of the Cambridge blue supporters.
That momentum has been building for the last three to four years when warriors like Tom Robinson, Matt Matich, and Scott Gregory began hitting their straps and have, during that time, become the devils opponents have come to fear.
Coming through club rugby, Mitre 10 Cup, through to Super Rugby campaign and in Gregory's case, selection in the New Zealand 7s squad, Northland now has a core group of players who have what it takes to slug it out against the tranditional heavyweights in the sport.
They showed that in the Mitre 10 Championship final in Napier on Friday night but couldn't keep up with the tempo for the full 80 minutes, losing 36-24 to Hawke's Bay.
If anything, the experience of not just playing in the crowning match but playing exceedingly well for the most part would put them in good stead heading into next season.
They had the measure of the hosts in the first half and it wasn't a surprise the Taniwha scored the opening try after seven minutes of wayward rugby by Hawke's Bay.
Even halfback Will Grant, who stepped up after an injury to veteran Sam Nock, brought out the best in everyone and gave the impression he was the element of seasoning that had been missing from the dish.
Grant made sure there was flow and space for the forwards to hit the breakdown and the backs to apply the finishing touches.
He's fast becoming a genuine passing number nine, with the speed and accuracy of delivery to enable the team to play wider and faster.
Where Hawke's Bay opted to kick for territory and test Northland around the fringes, the
latter were happy to keep the ball in hand, build multiple phases, and the forwards began to offer more bang for their bucks.
The host's much-vaunted rolling maul was mostly kept in check but the Northland defence struggled with the speed of the ruck ball after one of the maul's disintegrated that resulted in Jonah Lowe's try.
He was first to a grubber kick by centre Stacey Ili in behind a retreating defence.
Neria Fomai had no right to score his first try in the 15th minute but for some sloppy Northland defence in an otherwise top notch performance in the first spell.
The stats at that stage were telling. Northland had missed eight tackles to Hawke's Bay's none and the hosts's enjoyed 61 per cent territory.
It was tit-for-tat battle and just when it appeared Northland would lead at halftime, Lolagi Visinia scored in the corner off a lineout after Rene Ranger was penalised for leaving his feet in a ruck.
Hawke's Bay sniffed an opportunity to run Northland off their feet in the second half if they upped the tempo of the game and kept ball in hand.
It paid in spades.
Northland eventually wilted under pressure and gave Hawke's Bay too many scoring opportunities which they capitalised on, to the delight of a decent crowd that turned up free of charge.
In defence, the homeside were ruthless and kept Northland trapped deep in their own half in the final quarter.
The Magpies' win caps an impressive rise in the three seasons under head coach Mark Ozich, going from semifinalists in 2018, to beaten finalists in 2019, to getting over the line this season. For Northland, they can hold their heads high.
Hawke's Bay 36 (Jonah Lowe 2, Neria Fomai 2, Lolagi Visinia, Ash Dixon tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 cons, Caleb Makene con).
Northland 24 (Luatangi Li, Will Grant, Tom Robinson, Tamati Tua tries; Dan Hawkins con, Johnny Cooper con)