Wairarapa Bush 16 Wanganui 14
Wairarapa Bush rose to the occasion while favourites Wanganui did the opposite as the former won the Meads Cup rugby final yesterday.
Wairarapa Bush defied all the pre-match predictions to prove their supremacy in the upper tier of the heartland championship.
To do so they overcame a Wanganui side boasting home ground advantage as well as an unbeaten record this season.
The outcome at Cooks Gardens owed everything to Wairarapa Bush's composure as they expertly used a strong tailwind to establish a 16-0 lead by halftime.
They more than held their own for the next 20 minutes then withstood Wanganui's belated fightback in the final quarter when the home side finally sparked to life.
A strong-willed tight five, well led by hooker Joe Harwood, held Wairarapa Bush together, stealing a tighthead from a 5m scrum midway through the second half and shading Wanganui at lineout time.
Then, with time up on the clock, they won a lineout against the throw inside their own 22 in the last action of a match which never rose to memorable heights.
That was mostly because of the flood of errors committed by the Wanganui side, particularly their vaunted backs who repeatedly coughed up the ball unnecessarily.
Wairarapa Bush chose to play with the wind at their backs in the first half and made the most of that decision, a try to winger Francis Seumanutata and three penalties and a conversion to first five-eighths Patrick Rimene being just reward for their dominance in both possession and territory.
Wanganui were well off their game in the first spell but still within range providing they won enough ball after the break and trusted their instincts.
They managed to secure enough possession but little else went their way, even an easy penalty kick from a handy position by Steelie Koro missing the intended target in the 44th minute.
It wasn't until 60 minutes had passed that Wanganui made an impression on the scoreboard, after captain and halfback Denning Tyrell slipped three tackles close to the line.
Koro converted and did the same 12 minutes later from the left-hand touchline after winger Asaeli Tikoirotuma accepted a long, floating cutout pass from Koro to score in the corner.
Wanganui were by now showing the urgency demanded of a competition final but continued to let themselves down badly with poor handling and option taking.