Hika Elliot needed to find a seat.
It wasn't so much the 60 minutes of rugby he had just played as the emotional exhaustion of the past two weeks.
Jealously, resentment, bitterness, revenge, Elliot could be forgiven if he experienced them all after watching his former province lift the Ranfurly Shield in Dunedin last Sunday.
But as he sat outside the visitors' changing room on the edge of McLean Park on Saturday night, the former Hawke's Bay hooker was at peace for the first time since his being shown the door by a province he had served for nine years.
"I told Zac [Guildford] and the [Hawke's Bay] boys last week congratulations I wish I could have been there to experience the moment with them. But I've experienced my own moment with my new boys this week," the 27-year-old said after helping Counties Manukau to a 27-24 win over the Magpies In Napier on Saturday.
"It was hard playing against a province I would have loved to play for this year. To leave under the circumstances I did. I don't have any hate toward the people of Hawke's Bay, but this win out here today, it feels really good.
"In some ways it hurts me to say that, because it's a province I have so much passion for, but I've moved on and Counties is my team now. To win the shield for them is just awesome.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a highly emotional day for me. I said to the boys during the week if there is one game this year I want us to get up for it's this game here . . . we just created history."
To say Elliot looked pumped as he bounded on to McLean Park would be an understatement, but his greatest contribution to his new team was being able to temper his emotions.
An off-the-ball shove from Guildford was an early test, but Elliot took it with a smile where perhaps once he would have reacted differently.
"This team is quite green in the forwards and [coach] Tana [Umaga] put the emphasis on me to lead this pack," he said.
"If you saw our set piece and our scrum out there, people were writing us off after the Tasman game, but I thought we came right today.
"A lot of those green players stepped up to the mark. It was a huge occasion and I just said soak up the atmosphere it's going to be packed and McLean Park didn't disappoint."
And neither did Elliot, who handled a difficult day with aplomb.
- © Fairfax NZ News