If the Whanganui Maori game against the Wanganui Samoans is to become an annual fixture there couldn't have been a better advertisement than Saturday's final second thriller at Cooks Gardens.

The match was played as the curtain raiser to Steelform Wanganui's match against Horowhenua-Kapiti and the Samoan side leapt out to a 17-5 halftime lead with two first-half tries but were eventually beaten at the death after a late rally from Whanganui Maori.

Even when the Maori side came out firing and closed the gap to seven just minutes into the second half, the Samoans absorbed the pressure and manage to score again and restore their 12-point lead with 20 minutes to go.

But Whanganui Maori had another gear to find and dotted down twice to trail by just two for the last five minutes.

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They plugged away as the Samoan side clung on but while they successfully defended their line, they gave away a penalty in front with the final play of the game - the Maori side banking the kick to claim the one-point win.

"We managed to pull it out of the fire," Whanganui Maori coach Dennis Tucker said. "It was a great game."

But while he was pleased with the effort to come back, Tucker thought his side should have scored more early on.

"Just last minute dropping the ball, that was slowing things down. But the guys played really well."

Tucker said it was a game played in good spirit and hoped it would become an annual fixture with some sort of taonga to play for.

"It's good rugby, good flowing rugby and good for the crowd," he said.

"The guys all know each other. There's no trophy yet but bragging rights were definitely up for grabs."

Samoans coach Ace Malo said his side might have run out of petrol in the tank when they let the Maori back in.

"Just mistakes cost us in the end, we missed a couple of kicks. But I think they were favourites so I'm really happy.

"We got everyone on the field and we should've won it."

The match was the last for both sides this season.