Northland's top men's league team, the Northern Swords, are champions after completing a nail-biting 22-20 win over the Otago Whalers in Auckland on Saturday.
For the second time in three years, the Swords confirmed themselves as national division two champions with tries to Tavita Henare-Schuster, Jesse Epiha, and a double to Manaaki Tawhiwhirangi.
The result looked all but confirmed when the Northland side went 22-6 ahead prior to halftime. However, with the rain came an Otago fightback as the South Islanders drew within two points of the Swords with seven minutes to play.
Thanks to some resolute defence and clever tactics from the Northlanders, the Swords were able to hold on to their lead and take out the championship.
"We did get the rub of the green with the referee, a few calls went our way and we capitalised in that first half," Swords coach Neville Rogers said.
"Then the rain came down. Otago took their chances in that second half and really pushed us right to the end.
"We took a couple of risks and it didn't pay off and we paid for it with a couple of easy tries, but we just backed ourselves on defence, adjusted quite well and ended up getting across the line."
Rogers commended captain Ross McFarlane on his performance before he suffered a second head knock in the second half and had to be substituted.
"Before [Ross] got injured, he was pretty stellar going down the left edge, he set up a couple good of tries and his defence was pretty impeccable."
The Swords earned their place in the final after beating Wellington and Mid Central in a two-day tournament in Auckland - a format enforced by Covid-19 with such games usually played after multiple trips south to as far as Ōtaki.
Rogers said the change in format had been a blessing for the Northland team, who historically have had to travel hours in their own vehicles, leaving them poorly prepared for such physical battles.
Normally, the Swords' win would send them into a promotion/relegation game against the bottom team in the premiership, however, New Zealand Rugby League cancelled the fixture thanks to Covid-19's effect on the Auckland season.
While he was disappointed his side couldn't have their shot at returning to the premiership after about four years, Rogers believed promotion was possible in the coming years.
"I think we are definitely capable."