Another memorable chapter in the Bluff Rugby Club's annals was written in an appropriate year when the port team triumphed 22-16 over a gallant young Wyndham combination in Southland's division one club rugby final at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday.
Player-coach Jason Harrison had his season's last wish granted when the red-and-whites ground out an energy-sapping win in wet and cold conditions.
"We set two goals at the start of the season ... One was to play well at the 125th [jubilee] celebrations and the other was to win the championship today, ‘' he said.
Bluff beat Wyndham in both games, carrying on from when they downed the plucky Lower Mataura Valley men in the 2012 division two final at Bluff.
Harrison said the team's latest success highlighted its gradual development over the past four or five years and represented a proud moment for him and his mates.
"The win is definitely right up there as one of my highlights in rugby," Harrison said.
Saturday's game made stern demands on tenacity and resilience and the win was also the right time for Bluff captain Tere Ngu to retire from rugby in order to enjoy more time with his wife, Angel, and their five children.
A 33-year-old supervisor at the Alliance meat plant at Lorneville, Ngu was also the captain when Bluff won its 2012 division two final. Six forwards and four backs from the winning 2012 team fronted for Bluff on Saturday.
"A man knows when the time is right to retire, because it's starting to take me a week to get over a hard game," Ngu said.
The port skipper said the triumph was the hardest final he had contested and overtook Galbraith Shield wins with Woodlands and Marist in earlier years.
Ngu bows out after 12 years as a senior player for Lumsden, Marist, Woodlands and Bluff, playing as a midfielder (mainly centre), No 8 and hooker.
"Bluff is where my heart is, and we were so pleased to deliver the goods today for our loyal supporters," the victorious captain said.
"We have a good mix of youth and experience, but take nothing away from Wyndham because they were outstanding rivals."
The port victory was also cherished by Bluff schoolteacher and team manager Paddy Daintith, who said the win "topped off a wonderful season for our club, which also made the final of the division one presidents competition."
Daintith last played for Bluff in 1993 and took over as manager for the first time this season.
"I'm really proud of my men and that was what I call a real rugby final," Wyndham coach Davin Heaps said. "It felt like a Galbraith Shield with that much intensity. Our young players stood up like men. I thought we could win at one stage and we were only one pass away perhaps from doing so."
In some ways, Rugby Southland president Donald Hay, a former Wyndham and Edendale player, could have been excused for feeling for the beaten representatives of his old team.
"I'm very proud of the Wyndham team. They have every cause to hold their heads high as they achieved plenty today on a big stage with little experience here," Hay said.
The gripping intensity of the confrontation was not lost on referee Andrew Rowland, who said it was "up with as good as any I have officiated in and it was a shame that one team had to lose."
"The game was very competitive but a good and healthy form of competitiveness."
Bluff 22 (Junior Toparea try; Jayleel Faamoe-Ioane 5 pen, con),
Wyndham 16 (Campbell Thomson try; Josh Smith con, 3 pen).
- The Southland Times