A CHALLENGING year off the field ended in triumph on it for Te Teko on Saturday.
They claimed back-to-back Baywide rugby division one titles with a thrilling 18-17 win over Ruatoki at Dunderdale Park.
Much like the 2016 triumph, Te Teko’s heroics came late in the final. And from the same player.
Last year, young fullback Dylan Conn kicked a late penalty against Judea to send the game to extra time, and then win the game.
On Saturday, Conn converted William Warbrick’s superb solo try from the sideline to give his side a one-point lead.
Te Teko held out the remaining minutes to claim their third title since 2009.
Ruatoki had led 17-11 with 10 minutes to play and came agonisingly close to a remarkable comeback from being relegated out of Baywide rugby three years ago.
The win brought an emotive response from supporters after events outside of rugby affected the team this year.
Team manager Mita Hona died at Dunderdale Park before a game in late March and then just a few weeks later, catastrophic flooding hit Edgecumbe.
“It was huge really,” co-coach Anthony Studer said about Saturday’s win.
“It was a big thing for the boys and it was great to have Mita Hona’s family to support us throughout the season. Some of the boys were affected by the floods too.”
Te Teko were unbeaten through the seven weeks of the championship round, before beating Kahukura to reach the final. But the earlier game against Ruatoki had ended in a draw. Te Teko won by one point in Saturday’s final.
“It was relief more than anything, it could have gone either way,” Studer said.
“I think the win gives them confidence. It gets them that winning feeling. We have the Rosebowl challenge against Rangataua this weekend and I am quite happy that we can just keep rolling.
“There has only between one point between us and Ruatoki this year and they definitely deserved to be in that final. They are a young side too and I think both clubs are in pretty good shape going forward.”
Studer said being “from Texas” was an important part of the team makeup.
“When the club is doing well, the community is doing well. There is no one that is really from outside of Texas. You are either from here or your girlfriend or wife is. Our captain Maihi Araroa summed it up in his speech, “it is an honour to get your blazer because you use to run around here as a kid and see others acknowledged.”
Studer said the club wouldn’t be able to succeed without the backing of Omataroa and Putauaki trusts.
Meanwhile, Ruatoki coach Mark Pouwhare described the final moments as exciting, but he was nervous. After the final whistle he told his players he was proud of them.
What did you say to your team after fulltime? “I told them to hold their heads high. They had done an awesome job and thanked all of them for their efforts during the year.
“I think we ticked all the boxes in what we tried to do out there. I can’t fault anyone or anything. The boys left everything out there on Saturday and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
“It has been one hell of a ride for our rugby team, that ended in a great spectacle for all at Dunderdale Park.”