The title drought continues for New Plymouth Old Boys after they were upset on their home pitch for a second year in a row.
Top qualifiers heading into Saturday's premier semifinal, Old Boys were pipped 20-15 by a totally committed Inglewood side who produced a mammoth defensive effort on a sodden Vogeltown Park.
A try to replacement lock Maifea Maifea four minutes from time was enough to separate the two sides in a match full of head-on collisions but shy on finesse.
There were some who wondered how Old Boys would cope with heavy conditions, given they had played attacking rugby all season, and they got their answer against Inglewood who had been embarrassed 42-11 by the same side earlier in the competition.
That scoreline was never going to be repeated on Saturday as Old Boys played into Inglewood's hands by trying to play too much inside their own half against a well-organised defensive screen which scrambled and pushed the offside line to the limit.
Throw in the fact that both sides were allowed to seal off the ball at the breakdown for almost the entire match and it was easy to find a reason for Old Boys' inability to get the ball over the line.
The undoubted highlight of the match came in the 20th minute after impressive Inglewood prop Lopi Lilomaiava made a bust close to a ruck, found support from his fellow forwards before co-captain Berny Hall took the final pass to score.
The post-try celebration epitomised the attitude and belief Inglewood brought to the game.
"To come here and do that, especially on semifinal day, was something special," Hall said.
"They are an awesome team and that makes it even better."
Hall, like the majority of his team, were smiling when they woke to the sound of heavy rain falling.
"Absolutely, we're the mud city milers, that's what we're all about. We love it but their forward pack is one of the best in the competition and they were top for a reason. We just had to bring our A game and we did when it counted the most."
Hall was superb in his defensive plays but it was hard not to be impressed by the work of Lilomaiava especially, considering he had been out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Dejected Old Boys captain Liam McBride did not buy into the claim that the conditions had been their undoing.
"Full credit to Inglewood, they played bloody well today and deserved it," he said.
"I think we have the skill level to play our game in all conditions but it's just a shame we couldn't put it out there today."
- Taranaki Daily News
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