Marist pivot and captain Jeremy Boyle confessed to feeling "a little weird" after his team was declared the winner of Southland's division two rugby championship at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday.
The score was locked up at 6-6 after normal time before two 10-minute periods of extra time were played. But the score stayed at 6-6 and Marist were awarded the title on season points differential.
Both teams landed a brace of penalty goals in a classic confrontation that made stern demands on grit and guts.
Referee John Pfeifer, in his most important appointment to date, said the final between two even teams was not without tension and frustration after 100 minutes of play in wet conditions.
Referees did not like blowing the whistle too much but the competitive nature of the game created its share of infringements, which had to be addressed, he said.
"It was a very tense encounter and Blues put a lot of pressure on us in the last 15 minutes of regular play and could have been a trifle unlucky not to win," Marist coach Nathan Burgess conceded.
By the same token, he said his men probably didn't deserve to lose after applying themselves consistently well over a long season and hanging on to win the championship.
Playoffs and grand finals are seldom pretty, and this showdown between two well-drilled units was no exception. No quarter was asked for or shown.
A lot of rain and slippery conditions demanded percentage rugby of a no-nonsense brand, short and accurate passes, attention to detail and close support off the shoulders of ball carriers.
Both teams took time to adjust to those crucial requirements.
In the end, it boiled down to which team wanted it most. That neither team could gain an edge after 100 minutes was a graphic illustration of the commitment of the well-matched competitors.
Marist won the possession and territory battles in the first half but Blues stuck to their tried and proved game plan, which featured water tight defence by getting up in the face of Marist and disrupting opposition momentum and progress, shutting them down early and capitalising on mistakes.
Blues coach Simon Frisby was philosophical after, pointing out that his team did not lose.
"Marist didn't win, as the scoreboard shows ... We've had a great season and today's showing was another fine team effort. I wouldn't want to sort out any players ahead of their team-mates."
A Southland representative halfback in the mid-1980s, Waiau Star coach Gerry Adams was justified in feeling "positive and proud" of his Tuatapere men when they downed hosts Central Pirates-Star 15-6 in the second division plate final at Wilsons Crossing.
Max Baldwin and Stu Vaughan touched down for the winners and Simon Van Dam kicked a conversion and a penalty goal. Mark McCallum landed two penalty goals for Central Pirates-Star.
- The Southland Times