Departing halfback Tyson Keats has regrets about turning his back on the Ranfurly Shield but he will still leave Taranaki on a high.
Keats will head to Italy this week to take up a three-year playing contract with Aioni.
"To go out with a performance like that is pretty surreal," he said of Taranaki's 29-11 successful first defence against Hawke's Bay in New Plymouth yesterday.
Keats' final match lasted about 50 minutes before he succumbed to tiredness after battling the flu for the past four days.
"I don't want to go because I love this place but there comes a time when you have to look after yourself and signing a three-year deal has given me security," he said.
The former Canterbury man says he loved every minute of his time in the amber and black jersey.
"We're just a team of good buggers and Coops [coach Colin Cooper] is a great coach and everyone loves playing for him."
The Ranfurly Shield win "was right up there" for him and he wanted to thank the Taranaki community for the way they had responded to the team's success.
One man who was certainly looking forward to sharing the success with the public was assistant coach Leo Crowley, who had plenty of praise for his players.
"It feels fantastic," he said. "It's hard to describe really and to know the shield is going to be here for the next 10 months, that's just amazing."
Crowley felt the team showed plenty of composure after a shaky start.
"It was a real team effort," he said.
"The forwards had to do a lot of hard work and we felt at halftime they were pretty tired.
"Mind you, we were pretty tired as well."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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