It's part of the DNA of any Otago rugby or Highlanders fan to lack confidence heading into a big match.

After all, we had been disappointed many times before -- often because of a referee (I'm talking about you, Colin Hawke, and, no, I can't let it go).

So when the Highlanders travelled to Wellington for last year's Super Rugby final, it was sensible to be filled with hope rather than expectation.

Belief didn't arrive until about three minutes from time when Marty Banks potted a dropped goal -- he sensationally ran the ball when in position on two previous occasions.


Those madcap moments before the decisive dropped-goal tended to sum up the game. It was open, entertaining and exciting.

The Hurricanes didn't do a lot wrong in the final at the Cake Tin (Julian Savea committed the biggest sin when he dropped the ball with the line open). But the Highlanders were that little bit more adventurous, ruthless on attack, rugged on defence and strong in the set-piece and deserved their 21-14 win.

All of the Highlanders' All Blacks stood out as you'd expect them to - Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Smith, Waisake Naholo, Lima Sopoaga - but it was also unheralded ones like Elliot Dixon (who showed great strength to score a first-half try), Nasi Manu, Mark Reddish, Banks and Richard Buckman who helped make the difference.

It was also a triumph for coach Jamie Joseph, whose position had been questioned not too long before after a period of underachievement.

There was the obligatory street parade in Dunedin and the 28kg Super Rugby trophy went on a tour of the Highlanders' region, taking in the likes of Gore, Te Anau and Cromwell.

I'm not that confident the Highlanders can do it again this season, but at least we'll always have a reminder of that first Super Rugby title in 20 years - the franchise get to keep the trophy, given a new one will be played for in an expanded Super Rugby competition.

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