'Just pure happiness' for victorious Tasman Mako
In a sea of red and blue at Trafalgar Park in Nelson, the Tasman Mako finally took their place at the pinnacle of New Zealand domestic rugby.
In front of a full house on Saturday night, the Mako beat Wellington 31-14 to be crowned Mitre 10 Premiership champions for the first time.
The win didn't come easy for the home team, with Wellington pushing them hard right to the final whistle.
The Mako fed off scraps for much off the first half, but made the most of their opportunities to take the lead 23-14 at the break.
But when wing Will Jordan raced away off a counter-attacking break to seal the win in the 79th minute, the crowd knew the game was in the bag.
After the game, Tasman co-coach Andrew Goodman said the result was "just pure happiness".
"It's been a long time coming, I'm just so proud of everyone's efforts, from the management team to the playing squad who have been absolutely amazing.
Goodman said the win was a huge boost for aspiring rugby players throughout the region.
"It's massive for the kids coming through, both sides of the hill, to know they can stay here and be part of the best team in New Zealand, go on to play Super Rugby and on to the All Blacks."
Tasman captain David Havili said it was hard to describe the emotions after the victory.
"It's still really raw at the moment – I'm just so proud of the way the boys performed.
"We've been building for the past few years now, we just grew a culture where we love turning up each day, love coming to work with a smile on our face."
Wyatt Crockett, who was playing in his last game, said the win ranked right up there with his Super Rugby titles for the Crusaders and All Blacks World Cup win in 2015.
"It's right up the top, for a little wee province like this one, we punch above our weight ... to get something so many people have worked so hard for is very special for our community."
Crockett said there couldn't be a better way to sign off on his rugby career.
"I've absolutely loved playing with this bunch of young men, they make me feel young even though I'm not. It's been a pleasure to come back and play for Tasman the last couple of years, I've enjoyed every minute of it."
The win came after the Mako lost three away finals in five years, before finally getting the opportunity to host the game in their own backyard.
Few could have predicted the meteoric rise of Tasman rugby since Marlborough and Nelson Bays amalgamated in 2006.
Both sides had long been relegated to the second or third tier of New Zealand rugby; Marlborough hadn't been in the first division since their golden-era Ranfurly Shield team of the 1970s, while Nelson Bays had never made it to the top tier.
Before the match, former Marlborough captain and Ranfurly Shield winner Ray Sutherland said hosting the final was a tremendous achievement, and a vindication of the merger between the two unions.
"When it was first joined, the reason for supporting it was the opportunity it gave for the players – they've just got better all the time."
Tasman 31 (Will Jordan 2, David Havili tries; Mitch Hunt 2 cons, 4 pens) defeated Wellington 14 (Alex Fidow try; Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 pens)