The Bay of Plenty Steamers have secured a Mitre 10 Cup Championship final at home and some of their biggest and most loyal fans are already "buzzing" for the occasion.
The Steamers smashed Manawatu 64-3 in the semifinal on Friday night at Rotorua International Stadium. They will return to Rotorua next week to take on Hawke's Bay in the final.
Gary Lonergan was in the stands on Friday and will be there again next week. He has been following Bay of Plenty since the mid-60s when he was a schoolboy, and said what he saw in the semifinal was "impressive".
"I've been a passionate Bay of Plenty supporter for well over 50 years and I've been to a lot of Bay games and I've had my heart broken several times."
But not this time.
"On the strengths of the game that we saw on Friday night, you'd have to be super confident," Lonergan said.
"The whole thing of this year has been consistency, they've just played so well. Dazzling back play, dominant forward play. They're ticking all the right boxes. Speaking for all passionate Bay supporters, it's pleasing, it's just a wonderful feeling – to go and watch your team put on a performance like that, that's all you want and they've always had it in them."
Terry Hurdle has followed the Steamers all around the country, watching and supporting them for more than 40 years.
Next week he will go to his first Bay of Plenty home final.
"I tell you what, I'm buzzing," Hurdle said.
"They're playing extremely well and they seem to be happy and that's what it's all about.
"Hawke's Bay's a good side, but we're better."
Veteran broadcaster Brian Kelly has also been a Bay of Plenty Steamers fan for many years and will be at the final next week.
"It's our local team. I was there when they brought the [Ranfurly] Shield home, which was great," he said.
"It's big for the team to have a home final."
Kelly, who hosts the Coast Tauranga/Coromandel breakfast show, said the Steamers have been getting better with every game, "so look out".
He said he would be watching the final alongside his son Mark – "the Steamers' biggest fan" – who runs a weekly podcast about the team and goes to virtually every game.
Bay rugby identity Terry Leaming, aka Hori BOP, who is something of an unofficial mascot for the Steamers, said he was "over the bloody moon" about the semifinal win and was confident heading into the final.
"It's the first step towards getting back the Ranfurly Shield to where it rightfully belongs," he said.
Leaming said the atmosphere on Friday night was "absolutely brilliant", with heaps of kids and families "having a fantastic time".
"It was an absolute classic example of grassroots Mitre 10 Cup rugby – it's the greatest competition in the world, it's the stepping stone from club to professional rugby."
Leaming is hoping for an even bigger turnout for the final next week, and is urging every man and his dog to get on "all roads possible to Rotorua International Stadium".
"And make it an even better atmosphere than it was during the semifinal. And the boys will turn it on for you ... this team's on a roll, we have built really, really well and we're on a roll, we're going right to the top. This is just the start."