Hawke's Bay won the Mitre 10 Cup Championship title on Friday night at McLean Park in Napier, defeating Northland 36-24 in the final.
The win caps an impressive rise in the three seasons under head coach Mark Ozich, going from semifinalists in 2018, to beaten finalists in 2019, to getting over the line this season.
It was a deserved title, though they were made to work by a Northland side who has also improved this season, with the visitors scoring first, and even holding a surprise 17-12 lead after 30 minutes.
The Magpies hit back with a try to winger Lolagi Visinia, and the 17-all scoreline at the break accurately reflected an evenly matched contest.
Hawke's Bay started brighter in the second though, with Jonah Lowe throwing a brilliant dummy to fool the covering defence and go in for his second try, and in the 51st minute halfback Folau Fakatava made a break and lost the covering Scott Gregory with a big step, teeing up Neria Fomai to score once more with his ninth try assist of the season, the most in the competition.
It was the Taniwha's first final in 24 years after coming close in recent years, and Northland struggled to get out of its own half, while the opposition resorted to their traditional ball-in-hand play and hammered away at the Northland line, with great reward.
Led by their inspirational skipper Ash Dixon and Fakatava, the home side forced Northland into mistakes as the game wore on and were unlucky that two tries were disallowed.
In the end, the floodgates eventually opened for Hawke's Bay, who bagged two more tries to open up a 19-point buffer with 20 minutes to go, and despite a consolation try with five minutes remaining, Northland didn't come close.
The crowd of 7500 went wild on the final whistle, as Hawke's Bay claimed their third Mitre 10 Cup Championship title in a decade.
Hawke's Bay 36 (Jonah Lowe 2, Neria Fomai 2, Lolagi Visinia, Ash Dixon tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 cons, Caleb Makene con)
Northland 24 (Luatangi Li, Will Grant, Tom Robinson, Tamati Tua tries; Dan Hawkins con, Johnny Cooper con)
Here's how the game unfolded: