An amazing season for Touch Kapiti Horowhenua has culminated in gold medals for the club's Under 21 Men's and Under 18 Boys' teams at national events.
Five teams went to Touch NZ Youth, Open and Masters Nationals over the weekend and four attended the Junior Nationals in February, bringing back golds that club president Diana Manu says are the highlight of her tenure to date.
Many players travelled back to New Zealand and away from university to play.
Manu said the wins were tinged with sadness, as all players dedicated their campaigns to long-time coach Mike Rauhihi, who passed away this time last year, just weeks after taking the U21 Men's and U18 Boys' teams away to the last nationals.
"Mike coached touch for over 30 years," she said.
"He was a coach, friend, and mentor to all who knew him."
She said both teams had made a promise to return for gold this season in honour of Mr Rauhihi, and both had succeeded in keeping that promise.
The Under 21 Men won their final against Auckland in at the E Tu Whanau Nationals in Takanini last weekend with an outstanding score of 14-7, while the Under 18 Boys took gold in February at Junior Nationals. They fought hard and ended up sharing the top spot due to the final being cancelled in torrential rain, having earlier won their semi final.
The late Mr Rauhihi had coached some of the boys for more than 10 years, Manu said.
She said Tipene Puhipuhi, a close friend of Mr Rauhihi, and an ex Touch Black himself, had stepped into the coaching role for both teams who did a fantastic job continuing Mike's legacy.
"There is a lot of history to this team, and for our province leading up to these gold medals," she said.
"We have had some great success which we are all immensely proud of. Touch Kapiti Horowhenua are one of the smallest touch provinces in the country, stretching from Foxton to Paekakariki, but we punch well above our weight with passion, drive, dedicated coaches, managers, referees and players, to achieve results."
The club finished seventh in provincial points out of 17 provinces, and had nine players selected from Junior Nationals for New Zealand teams and World Cup trials. Selections from last weekend's nationals are yet to be released.
Manu said the club had also had huge growth in girls' touch, with several players recognised for their achievements recently.
Maddie Feaunati was selected for the Touch NZ 16 Mixed Touring Team and Rangimarie Sturmey made the Touch NZ 16 Girls Touring Team.
The club also has one of the strongest referee contingents in the country, with nine representing at nationals, Manu said.