After a hard-fought, sometimes bloody battle that could have gone either way, three points were the difference when the final whistle blew.
Despite having lost twice in the season, both times to Wyndham, Tokanui prevailed over their rivals when it counted to win Rugby Southland’s division one final and the Ack Soper Shield.
At home in front of a crowd estimated to be at least 1000 spectators, Tokanui took early opportunities in the game to kick penalty points through the boot of fullback Daniel Webber.
Wyndham midfielder Michael Robinson slotted two for the team and the team trailed 6-9 at halftime.
Not long into the second half Wyndham scored a try to take the lead, but shortly after Tokanui replied with a converted try.
After a period of sustained attack Wyndham scored another try in the corner to equalise.
Both teams then defended stoutly until Webber kicked another penalty.
In the last 10 minutes, Tokanui repulsed wave after wave of Wyndham attempts on the line to win 19-16.
Tokanui coach Mal Dermody said in the club’s centennial year it was “great to get it across the line”.
He was very proud of his players.
“I’m thrilled for them.
“I thought they stuck to their guns and did a lot of the things that we talked about wanting to achieve in the game.”
The team had a simple strategy to win.
‘‘The game plan was to keep a hold of the ball and score one more point than they did, and luckily enough we ended up scoring three more.”
It was a full team effort and he could not single anyone out.
The crowd had been amazing, he said.
“They were vocal but fair, in good spirits.
“It just goes to show that country rugby is not in its death knell.”
The final was a great outing for people who were facing tough times in the agricultural industry at present.
“I thought rugby was the winner on the day, to be honest.
“Like two close-knit communities coming together and celebrating everything good about the districts.”
Damien Durry and Jamie McKenzie were also part of the coaching team and contributed to the team’s success.
He was also thankful the team had a faithful group of supporters who attended away games as well as at home.
Wyndham coach Gav McDermott said it was probably the closest game the teams had played against each other for the season.
“It was good for it to come right down to the wire like that.’’
The forwards set a good platform by running the ball up as they had all season.
Number 8Garoth van der Straaten had a standout game.
First five Michael Robinson also did well, directing play with his positional kicking.