The Otangarei Knights are through to the Northland Premier League grand final on August 3 after an emphatic 54-nil win over the Northern Wairoa Bulls on Saturday.
The Knights will meet the unbeaten Takahiwai Warriors in the final at the Northland Events Centre in a replay of last year's final, which was won by Otangarei.
After defaulting to Takahiwai in a preliminary semifinal last weekend, the Knights needed to prove their worth against the Bulls at the Otaika Sports Park.
It didn't take long for them to do just that as a great inside ball from Knights captain Daley Johnson to the oncoming Jordan Katene saw them score their first try after about 15 minutes.
However, a Knights points procession didn't directly follow as the team from Dargaville piled on the pressure deep in Otangarei's half. Credit to Otangarei, their defence held strong despite being under extreme duress from the Bulls runners.
The Knights looked fairly comfortable for most of the game, making grand yards in each set which often contained a scoring opportunity.
Otangarei's Sam Henry was outstanding in the centre of the park, breaking the Bulls line countless times and providing much of the go-forward for the Knights.
With the Bulls failing to execute their chances, the Knights went into halftime, 22 points clear with tries to captain Daley Johnson, Shaquille Ormsby and Vince Paul in the last 11 minutes of the half.
The second half was much the same as the first with Otangarei showing a real desire to flex their muscle ahead of a mouth-watering grand final match up.
It wasn't all plain sailing for the victors though as two players were given a 10-minute break on the sideline as frustrations boiled over with a number of high and tip tackles being made in the game from both sides.
Despite their potential in the first half, the Bulls looked tired and without any answer in the second half against a bullish Otangarei attack.
The Knights put on an attacking clinic with their passing as players ran great angles to cut the Bulls defence open.
It was a piece of magic from Otangarei's Linn Hunapo which saw the Knights score their 10th and final try to end the game.
Kicking off the outside of his right boot, Hunapo sent the ball end over end towards the right corner where speedster Bryce Rauahi reeled it in right on the touchline to score.
"We needed to have a bit of a blowout and it's always good to get a good result," Johnson said.
"We knew after last week, after defaulting, we needed to have a big push and defence was a big part of our preparation into this game."
Johnson, who scored twice, credited his team's success to their defence and the efforts of Henry, who led the way against the Bulls.
"Sam [Henry] is one of our best players I think, he controls our middle really well and his defence is always on point and he just ties everything in for us on defence which is really good."
Johnson said there was much anticipation in his team ahead of the final where he hoped his side could defend their league title against the team they vanquished last year.
Otangarei coach Des Nordstrand said it was good to make it past the Bulls with no injuries so they could face Takahiwai with their best side.
"We made the final and that was our goal and anything can happen now," he said.
"Takahiwai are still going to be a hard team to beat, there's no doubt about that but one game is one game."
While the overall performance was good, Nordstrand said his team needed to be better disciplined against a ruthless Takahiwai attack.
"If we get out discipline right then we'll be alright, we ended up with two in the bin [on Saturday] so that doesn't help, we do that against Takahiwai, we'll be punished."
For the Bulls, the loss showed the troubles they've had with injury and player shortage. However, making it to the end of the season was something player/coach Trident Ratu was pleased to achieve.
"We had to pull out half way through [the competition] last year so finishing the season and getting to where we are, it's been really awesome."
Ratu said there were times in the game against the Knights where they had chances to score but with no execution, there was little hope for his side.
"We couldn't capitalise with that possession right in front of the goal-line and if we had gotten the points on the board early, it could have just given us a bit of a lift and been a better result."
He said it had been a privilege to be a part of the Bulls team and he hoped the club could come back bigger and stronger next season.
"Even though the season is over, the club isn't over so let's look at next year and refocus, rest the bodies, get well and everybody bring a mate next year so we can get some more numbers."