Muriwhenua 34 Ngāpuhi 16 (HT 14-8): Muriwhenua reclaimed the Iwi Origin title at Ludbrook Park in fine but windy, wintry conditions on Saturday.
Head coach Vince 'Tini' Rudolph said he was very proud of the way his players represented their rohe, particularly considering the visitors arrived with a squad of 14 (i.e. only one sub) to take on the defending champions, fielding 20 players.
The final score was also one of the biggest margins ever recorded in a title decider.
"It was a tough game and score didn't really reflect that. It was physical," said Rudolph.
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His standouts included overall POTD Te Puhi Rudolph at halfback directing play all day, front rowers Sandy Hepi, Xavier Laseke and Harding Wharerau, the forwards who "led the way all day ... tackling endlessly" including Zane Kaaka, Holli Rudolph and Raharuri Fiaui, centres Hoera Kleskovich and Daylan Vesetolu with some "damaging running" and hooker Brent Tecklenburg, who scored two tries and kicked a conversion.
Rudolph remained undecided whether the turnout by Muriwhenua represented a lack of buy-in to this year's game, which was played as a one-off this year rather than over the best-of-three format used on the past two occasions.
"[I don't know] Whether they saving themselves for their clubs or second round, injuries ... "
Another highlight of the day was having Philip Marsh, the GM of Rugby League Northland (the organisation which the TRL broke away from three years ago) watching on alongside NZ Maori and Northern Swords coach Neville Rogers and Swords assistant coach, Jack Walker. Asked to pick the MVP, the trio chose Te Puhi.
On behalf of the Muriwhenua legends, Rudolph thanked the Ngapuhi team for putting up "awesome" opposition, the Taiamai club for hosting and putting on a fantastic spread, a big hangi, and also the Auckland ref, Vern. He also applauded his coaching staff Jim Larkin and Tom McCaffrey as well as runner Ricky Toby (who could not play because of a broken arm).
The Muriwhenua Legends beat their Ngapuhi counterparts by 34-12 in the curtain-raising masters game.