Napier Technical Old Boys cricketers have defied the odds to claim back-to-back premier men's club national crowns in Auckland today.
The Innovative Electrical-sponsored red army marched to the beat of captain Liam Rukuwai to validate his claims they were good enough to beat Canterbury flag fliers and slayers St Albans and it would have been cruel had weather robbed them of that opportunity to redeem themselves this afternoon.
It was a game of undying patience and attrition as NTOB purposefully carved up a five-wicket victory at the Cornwall Cricket Club park No 1 - Stop watching the paint dry and be prepared to lose the sheen with bat and ball.
"We talked about that and we just had to make sure we'd do another good job, no matter how long it would have taken as long as it was done," said Rukuwai, after winning the toss and sticking to the mantra of bowl first.
So what's it like to win another title as ambassadors of Central Districts?
"Oh, it's just as good as the first one and it's good to have someone like Bronson Meehan here this year because me, Stevie [Smidt] and Bronson grew up together, going through CD age group together so we missed not having Bronson here last year," Rukuwai said of Meehan who dedicated last year to his primary school teaching career.
Veteran Meehan took 5-16 off 9.3 overs, including three maidens, to help skittle St Albans for 96 runs in 34.3 overs of the limited-overs match.
For what it was worth, NTOB had gifted 14 to St Albans' total, including nine wides, but the top qualifiers didn't make the most of it.
However, the NTOB bowling attack was frugal as it had been all week. Only Rukuwai had gone for 9.33 runs an over with the new ball but the rest were below three an over. Todd Watson claimed 2-13 while veterans Smidt and Kieran Noema-Barnett took one each.
Meehan was the epitome of frugality, going for 1.68 runs an over with the ball at second change, and eking out an unbeaten 27 runs from 72 deliveries as the No 4 batsman, top scoring for the two-time champions.
Conversely, no St Albans batsmen had got to the 20-run mark — openers Dan Sharples and Greg Dawson managed 18 and 19, respectively. Only four of them got into double figures, which spoke volumes of what economy of scale the wicket demanded and how NTOB were going to react to the market when it was their turn to ask for middle and leg.
Rukuwai and his gallant men, it seemed, had curbed any overwhelming desire to throw their willows recklessly in trying to reel in a total that would have been a stroll in the park any other day.
With the persistent rain abandoning the match against Green Island (Otago) yesterday, the weather gods had issued a resounding thumbs up for play but had temperamentally drawn a line in the sand today.
The Texans took heed. They went to lunch at 2-39 after 14 overs, requiring 58 runs from 36 overs with opener Matt Edmondson taking a red-ball stance of 13 runs from 39 balls and Meehan yet to score.
When play resumed Edmondson eventually departed for 21 runs from 57 balls but Meehan played a straight bat but the equation advertised for sleep-walking applicants at a run an over — 26 runs from 26 overs.
But such returns have a slippery banana skin-feel about them. Player/coach Jesse Ryder, at No 6, took a bolshy approach but left-arm spinner Matt Holstein trapped him leg before wicket for nine runs.
Noema-Barnett suffered the same fate at the hands of James Tapper for five runs.
Nevertheless, Meehan and Watson (five not out) got the Texans over the line with 5-97 from 34.1 overs.
It was a day when the humble singles was the going currency. The entire match yielded only 16 boundaries and two sixes.
Rukuwai said NTOB had an amazing culture and a sense of camaraderie that transcended the ritual of playing cricket.
"It's a very special group we've got there," he said, lauding the smattering of supporters who had turned up in Auckland but also the overwhelming support via social media and texts from Hawke's Bay.
Rukuwai said the measure of their strength was in different individuals stepping up at different matches but also mindful as a collective that it took 11 to find the result or share the agony of missing out.
The Texans were intending to celebrate long into the night before catching their flight back to Napier tomorrow morning.