Kaierau RFC will be bringing the inaugural Arteria Arteria Memorial Shield home with them after winning their historic preseason game with Samoa College Old Pupils Association (SCOPA) in Apia on Saturday.
Playing at a soaked Samoa College in a four-quarters match against a home side using a very big squad – both in terms of numbers and physical size – Kaierau had to dig deep to come back from 17-8 down at halftime for a 25-24 victory.
Their co-coach Ace Malo turned the clock back once again, coming on to score a converted try beside the posts with two minutes remaining.
SCOPA had a chance to snatch the game back with a penalty right on fulltime, but the kick missed.
Staying at the Taumeasina Island Resort, the squad and their supporters had been treated to warm hospitality by the SCOPA club and Samoan Tourism, with festivities around the match.
"We're trying to become part of [the culture]," said co-coach Carl Gibson.
With a tropical cyclone dampening the country at the weekend, it had taken the team a little getting use to the soaked field conditions, with even the roads to the ground being in a state.
Kaierau opened the scoring through a Shandon Scott penalty on his second attempt, before SCOPA broke through near halfway for a runaway try to the corner.
The visitors then received the referee's call that a low pass was not knocked on, and they spread it to score in the corner for 8-5.
But SCOPA got the better of the second quarter - scoring out wide after sustained buildup for a converted try, and then having everyone defend Kaierau's counterattack on their line, including a random dog running onto the field.
Another converted try before the halftime break had the home side in strong position and Gibson said his team was sucking in the air.
"[SCOPA] had a big squad, which is what it's all about in preseason. I was thinking, 'how are our 25 guys going to get up?'
"The hits, man, there were some big hits. There was a lot of passion for the first game of the year.
"I asked them to step up and play with a bit of pride, and there wasn't one of them who didn't do that."
Scott would land another penalty and a smart set move from No8 Joe Edwards allowed winger CJ Stowers to score in the corner, but SCOPA got another converted try to seemingly have the outcome decided at 24-18 with the clock running down.
However, a little Malo magic and Scott's close range conversion saw the visitors pull it out, as the rain started bucketing down right after fulltime.
While in Apia, the team was also to give out free Mitre 10 and WRFU rugby balls to children in the community.
The squad and their supporters return home on Wednesday.