Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist played its get-out-of-jail-free card to get up by a point over Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau in overtime at Spriggens Park on Saturday.
The middle of the table Tasman Tanning premier division derby proved a cracker of a game full of running rugby punctuated by irony and several dramatic moments.
With the scoreline at 28-15 to Kaierau and 15 minutes to go, Marist supporters almost looked resigned to a loss - however, the players had other ideas.
Kaierau appeared fully in control with victory in the bag until two late converted tries turned glory into despair for the maroon and golds.
With less than five minutes left on the clock, Marist prop Viki Tofa crossed for a try to make it 28-20 with the kick to come. Up stepped Marist newcomer Ashton Coates, who calmly slotted the conversion to bring the scoreline to 28-22 in Kaierau's favour.
Marist continued the pressure lifting its game with a hint of the impossible in the air. A massive team effort, helped by numerous penalties from referee Ben Lourie, had Marist knocking on the door and seriously threatening the Kaierau goal line.
With time up on the clock and under a penalty advantage the bullocking hooker Jack Yarrall crossed to dot down just to the side of the uprights. With the score at 28-27 to Kaierau it came down the kick from the diminutive Coates who again sent the pill over the crossbar for an unbelievable win for Marist.
The irony was that Yarrall had only just transferred to Marist from Kaierau this season and the paperwork for Coates' transfer from Northland only came through on Thursday.
Coates had arrived from Whangarei to work on a farm in Kauangaroa just beyond Fordell.
The match began with both sides looking threatening on attack, particularly the Kaierau backline, although Marist perhaps had the better defence at that point.
Kaierau broke through early with lock Matt Ashworth crossing after just four minutes following pressure applied from a penalty. The Shandon Scott conversion gave them a 7-nil lead. Just five minutes later Marist drew level after centre Josaia Bogileka dotted down then converted his own try.
Marist fullback Simon Dibben was yellow carded midway through the first half for a high tackle when stopping an almost certain Kaierau try and while in the bin he was joined by lock Aiden FitzGerald after he was cited for a deliberate knockdown.
Kaierau failed to capitalise while Marist had two in the sin bin and that was to come back and haunt them at the final whistle.
Adding to their woes, Marist halfback Ricky Alabaster stepped up and kicked a well-judged penalty from 35-metres out in a strong cross wind that blew throughout the match. It brought th score to 10-7 in favour of Marist. With three minutes to go in the first half, Dibben who had returned from the bin, went over in the corner. The unconverted try gave Marist a 15-7 lead at half time.
Five minutes into the second spell halfback Vili Alauni went in for a try with the accuracy of Scott taking Kaierau to within a point of Marist (15-14). Less than five minutes later veteran second-five Ace Malo crossed for the first of his two tries after an excellent midfield back break. Scott again proved accurate converting to take the score to 21-15 Kaierau's way.
Kaierau then lost Ashworth to the sin bin 12 minutes into the second half for allegedly starting a short-lived brawl that never really gathered any momentum.
Malo then went in for second helpings 18 minutes into the half. Scott brought the score to 28-15 and a glimpse of victory.
Kaierau coach Denis Edwards, while obviously disappointed, was also philosophical in defeat.
"We should have won, but we didn't," Edwards said.
"They got 14 points with two guys down and we simply didn't capitalise. They got their heads back up in the last few minutes and all credit to them, they got the win."
Jerome McCrea, who co-coaches Marist with Jason Hamlin, said he was off to buy a Lotto ticket after his team's miraculous escape.
"I think everyone was pretty much resigned to a loss with 15 minutes to go,' mcCrea said.
"I'm so proud of them. We have been coping with injuries and have had a few missing, but they are on their way back now, so the rest of the season will be interesting."