It can be one of the most intimidating places to play in schoolboy rugby, but Whanganui Collegiate 1st XV carried a result out of "The Gully" that was over 15 years in the making with a 32-26 win over New Plymouth Boys' High on Wednesday.
Collegiate have not beaten NPBHS 1st XV since the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and were facing an experienced forward pack, led by Tuterangi Anderson, one of the most promising props in the Chiefs region.
Loose forwards Thomas Murray-Edwards, Tom Simpson and George Birkett had to be respected, as did centre William Guthrie and first-five Jack Parker.
More than that, at the Gully Ground the visiting teams must face the NPBHS haka not only from the team, but several dozen more of the senior school boys behind them, along with the remainder of the students who pack the iconic grass steps overlooking the field, which creates a real coliseum-like atmosphere.
Perhaps it had an effect, given Collegiate conceded a converted try in the opening two minutes after making an error from the kickoff.
"We responded well and controlled possession and territory for the next 10 minutes, eventually scoring in the corner from a good lineout drive, finished by Ben Strang," said Collegiate director of sport Barry Touzel about the team's nuggety hooker.
Collegiate stayed on attack and Te Atawhai Mason just lost the ball when diving for the tryline, but he redeemed himself a few minutes later when he went for a dash and cut back inside, controlling the ball this time as he dived over.
After a period of defending, a deep kick by Mason set up another chance and Logan Henry made a great chase to get the ball on the bounce and fired off a pass while falling in the tackle for Beau Hourigan to score.
Collegiate led 15-7 at the break.
Urged on by the crowd, NPBHS started the second half strongly and closed to within a point with a converted try in the 50th minute.
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"WCS hit straight back with a strong run through the middle from Hadleigh O'Leary who then fed the supporting Sam Sherriff, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes, to score our fourth try," said Touzel.
Again, NPBHS hit back with another seven-pointer for 22-21 with 15 minutes left, but as the pressure ramped up, they turned over the ball from a poor pass, with Collegiate's goalkicker Harry Godfrey snatching it up and running 50m to score.
Collegiate lost Strang after a head knock, and then with five minutes remaining, NPBHS scored to once again narrow the gap to a point at 27-26.
But No 8 Semi Vodosese, the big Collegiate loose forward who can run like a winger, drew in several defenders before off-loading to Joe Abernethy, who dashed for the corner flag before finding Hourigan inside to score his double.
"The forwards then played good intelligent rugby and showed a lot of poise by keeping the ball tight and winding down the clock," said Touzel.
"A great result and a fantastic team effort."