The Bay of Plenty Steamers have gone about as close as a team can to claiming the Ranfurly Shield for just the second time in their history.
With the score locked at 33-all at fulltime against current holders Hawke's Bay in Napier this afternoon,
Bay of Plenty hearts were broken when the Magpies kicked a golden-point penalty in extra time to claim victory.
The Steamers have not lifted the elusive Ranfurly Shield since 2004. On a day that has become synonymous with Bay of Plenty Rugby legend, the Steamers pulled off the performance of a lifetime, defeating heavily favoured Auckland 33-28 in an Eden Park thriller to lift the Shield for the first time in the province's history.
There was plenty of fire early in the game and it was the Steamers who forced the first error, the Magpies knocking on just outside their own 22m line after two minutes.
Bay of Plenty was patient from the resulting scrum and after probing both sides of the defence created an overlap for winger Emoni Narawa to dive over in the corner. Kaleb Trask could not convert from the sideline and the lead remained 5-0.
Hawke's Bay came back strongly, spending the next period of play camped in Bay of Plenty territory.
Both sides came into the match with a record of one win and one draw. However, you could almost throw the form book out the window after the competition was put on hold for a month due to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
Thirteen minutes into the game, increasing pressure from the Magpies paid off through a rolling maul 5m out in the middle of the field before Ash Dixon
burrowed over the line to score. Lincoln McClutchie added the extras and Hawke's Bay led 7-5.
Just a few minutes later, the Steamers hit back from a lineout inside the Hawke's Bay 22m. They launched the throw long and Manaaki Selby-Rickit ran onto it before putting halfback Luke Campbell straight through a gap to score. Trask converted to extend the lead to 12-7.
In what was quickly becoming a high-scoring affair, the Magpies levelled the scores almost immediately through Solomone Funaki who sliced through a gap from 20m out to score. McClutchie converted and the shield holders led 14-12.
Twenty-five minutes into the first half, the Steamers retook the lead, again from a lineout thrown over the top. Winger Onisi Ratave ran onto it and straight through a gaping hole, then breaking a couple of tackles to score behind the posts. Trask converted and Bay of Plenty led 19-14.
McClutchie kicked a penalty in the 28th minute to reduce the deficit to 17-19.
In the 30th minute, Hawke's Bay was back in the lead, pouncing on a Bay of Plenty error near halfway to go on the attack. McClutchie attacked the line 20m out, offloaded to Pouri Rakete-Stones and the big front-rower scampered away to score. McClutchie converted and the Magpies led 24-19.
McClutchie kicked another penalty and Hawke's Bay held a 27-19 lead at the break.
The beginning of the second half was much more of an arm wrestle - there were no points scored in the first 15 minutes of the half.
Bay of Plenty put themselves right back in the game when centre Sean Wainui ran on to a perfectly weighted grubber from Otere Black to score. Black converted the try and the Steamers trailed by one point at 27-26.
In the 63rd minute, McClutchie kicked a penalty to stretch the lead back out to four points at 30-26.
The Steamers won multiple penalties in Hawke's Bay 22m and continually turned down the shot at goal. In fact, they spent much of the second half camped in opposition territory.
The Magpies repelled attack after attack but with just three minutes left on the clock, Ratave hit a gap about 40m out, slipped out of a tackle and raced through to score behind the posts. Black converted and the Steamers led 33-30.
In the last minute, Hawke's Bay won a penalty about 35m out. Tiaan Falcon nailed the kick to make it 33-all and the game went to golden point extra time.
Hawke's Bay threw everything at Bay of Plenty and four minutes into extra time won a penalty inside the 22m, right in front of the posts. Falcon made no mistake, splitting the sticks to secure victory and retain the Ranfurly Shield.
The loss sees Bay of Plenty remain at bottom of the Bunnings NPC Premiership table.