The Wanganui Samoa team have created history with a tremendous upset to defeat Hawke's Bay Samoa 23-15 to win the High Commissioners Cup at Marton Park on Saturday.
Coming into the WRFU fold as an official representative team this season after their previous incarnation as the Marton Samoans, the team had qualified for their third final but had never previously won the title.
Defending champions Hawke's Bay were heavy favourites, having smashed them 60-10 in their previous meeting in Napier on August 25.
Despite having lost talented midfielders Vaovasa Afasu'a and Meki Magele, who had to return in Samoa, while another player pulled out with an ankle injury at Thursday training, Wanganui played out of their skins, coming from 12-7 down at halftime.
"They were pretty much the same team from a few weeks back," said player-coach Ace Malo about the opposition.
"They missed their No 10, he had concussion."
But the home side did extraordinarily well to turn around a 50-point loss.
"It was a huge step up, especially our defence. Everyone wanted it," said Malo.
"There was heaps of people there, standing on the sideline, everyone cheered us on.
"I'm pretty happy with it."
Seko (John) Kilisi covered centre and scored a try, as did back turned loose forward Lote Tauialoto and the talented young outside back Junior Ainea for the second game in a row.
Malo himself played the full 80 minutes at first-five – the veteran of 115 first class games for Wanganui and Taranaki had been saddened to step down from Heartland rugby in 2017, but after the Hawke's Bay hammering he pulled the boots back on and played a key role in the win over Manawatu Samoa and now the Cup final.
"I can't help it, eh," he laughed.
Malo wished to thank WRFU's chief executive Bridget Belsham, president Jeff Phillip, and development officer Eneliko Fa'atau for their support, along with Geoff Davies for sponsoring two vans for away games, and Meteor Office Products for supplying the strapping tape.