Ngāti Maru impressed many at the Taranaki Māori Rugby League tournament this weekend in Manaia by making it through to the premiership final.
The achievement is extra special to the tribe from the north of Taranaki as they are also debutants to the competition.
It was a two-day tournament that had bruising hits and NRL-like tries. It is no wonder why they have been the talk of the tournament.
Team manager Rangi Kake (Ngāti Maru) says, "[It is] very humbling as an older person seeing our rangatahi (young ones) coming home in their droves."
Tournament founder and Māori Party candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru Howie Tamati was at Manaia domain to check out the action from the finals. Tamati was especially impressed by the calibre of the players who turned out for Ngāti Maru.
"Some people just rock up and say we'll be right on the day. Obviously, Ngāti Maru have done a bit of homework and brought the boys back," says Tamati.
Leading into the final, Ngāti Maru surprised many on their first day, going through unbeaten. There was an ounce of anticipation to see if the debutants would get to the final. However, their elders were not getting ahead of themselves.
"At the end of the day, there's one winner here overall and that is Māori," says Kake.
Ngāti Maru arrived at the final full of confidence after holding out Ngāti Tama in the semi-final. They did, however, face a fired up Ngāruahinerangi who had home advantage.
In the end, the northern Taranaki tribe took out the final and kept their opponents scoreless 26–0.
Playmaker Manaia Osborne was ecstatic saying, "We're elated especially because we have only just got together."
Meanwhile, in the Championship Final, Te Ātiawa was too strong for Taranaki Tūturu winning 30-4.
"The boys have put it out there today. They've shown that good heart that we've got here in the rohe," says Matiu Welch (Te Ātiawa).
Those fortunate to be selected for the tournament side will now turn their attention to the National Māori Rugby League tournament next month.