Turangawaewae came from behind to claim back-to-back titles

By Tamati Tiananga

Defending champions the Turangawaewae Rugby League Premier side have gone back to back defeating local rivals Taniwharau 24- 20 in a cliffhanger of the Waikato Rugby League Grand Final at Davis Park in Huntly.

"I just want to take my hat off to Taniwharau - we had to work hard for that game," Turangawaewae Premier co-captain Mikaere Beattie said,

It's been like that all season and we knew it was going to be like that. To my boys - stay humble in victory and defeat because we were lucky to get the victory."

Kiwis legend Tawera Nikau was impressed with Turangawaewae who were very clinical in attack, "It went right down to the wire in the last two minutes of the game and Turangawaewae pulled it out of the hat.”  

For the hundreds of spectators at Davis Park and the many tuning into Radio Tainui - Tainui Live broadcast on Facebook across the country and Australia just who would walk away with the title was not known until the very end, the Turangawaewae Premier side taking the win in the final minutes. 

"Turangawaewae snatched the victory in the final minutes, Tanui Live commentator John Devonshire said. "In the end, it was a missed tackle and the little fella dotted down."

Sin-bin had big effect

Turangawaewae winger Preston Collins scored late in the second half of an offload from outside-centre Taylor Leef, who was named Tawera Nikau player of the match, to score in the corner to help Turangawaewae retain the A.S Muir Shield. 

 "To be honest, they gave it to us and we just got lucky in the last two minutes," Turangawaewae Premier co-captain Raana Dennis said. 

His counterpart, Taniwharau Premier captain Mahinga Rangi said he wanted to thank Turangawaewae, "not only the Premiers but also the Reserves and U17 teams as well. I've got to give a big mihi to our supporters, much love to you all whānau and I promise you we gave our best out on the field."  

Just minutes earlier Taniwharau player and co-coach Pawhare Brown was sin-binned for a professional foul, this ultimately leaving Taniwharau one man down for the remainder of the match.  

"That sin-bin had a big part to play in the game, It was 13 against 12 and would've been feeling a little sick in the bin," Devonshire said.    

Taniwharau went into the break ahead 20-10 but as NZ Māori president Devonshire explained. "this was a game of two halves and anything can happen."

Other final results 

Premier Reserves Grand Final: Turangawaewae defeated Taniwharau 24-18 

U17 Grand Final: Taniwharau defeated Turangawaewae 24-12