The ITM Cup Premiership and Championship competitions have been run and won, culminating in a pair of thrilling finals last weekend.
Manawatu triumphed in the second-tier Championship, overrunning Ranfurly Shield holders Hawke’s Bay 32-24 with a late rally to win promotion to the 2015 Premiership.
The Magpies got off to a flyer, leading 14-3 after brilliant tries to Ihaia West and Shannan Chase, while they were still ahead 24-20 inside the final five minutes after Chase crossed again in the 67th minute. But the Turbos snared their first domestic title since 1980 with late tries to Jason Emery and Nathan Tudreu.
Taranaki became the first province outside of the ‘Big Five’ – Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Waikato and Otago – to win the ITM Cup Premiership since finals were introduced in 1992, holding off a stirring late charge from 2014 surprise packets Tasman.
Taranaki led 30-13 with 25 minutes left at New Plymouth, but the Makos stormed home to eventually go down just 36-32. Tasman scored four tries to three, but the boot of Taranaki wing Cody Rei, who racked up 21 points, proved crucial.