Waikato are the new holders of the Ranfurly Shield after beating Hawkes Bay 36-30 in a thriller.
It has been a difficult season for Waikato, but to end as the new Shield holders will provide this young group with a lot of well-earned confidence and it was the young stars that helped get Waikato over the line in a hostile atmosphere in Napier.
Brad Weber scored a hat trick on the way to leading Waikato to victory, but the maturity of Damian McKenzie will be a major talking point as the 20-year old guided the side around the park and put in a monster effort defensively, including one of the best tackles of the year to stop Robbie Fruean from scoring.
Ben Tamiefuna ended his rugby career in New Zealand with a yellow card and it nearly came back to cost Waikato. The prop will now apply his trade in France for Racing Metro.
Young Waikato winger Jordan Trainor showed signs of a bright future ahead on debut, playing a part in two of Weber’s tries.
Waikato will reflect on a difficult season knowing that much potential was lost, but have ended in the best possible way, and now begin their tenth reign as holders of the Ranfurly Shield.