Tawa defeat Marist to win Jubilee
Since the finals format was introduced in 1993 no side had lost their first two Jubilee Cup matches and gone on to make the semifinals.
But Tawa went one step further on Saturday, despite losing not just two but their first three opening games.
But they surged back with a six-game winning streak to defy the odds and snatch the title from a rampant Marist St Pat’s side with a nail-biting 24-20 win at Porirua Park on Saturday.
Tawa captain TJ Fermanis was elated at the final whistle, after MSP had launched a desperate late onslaught on their line.
‘‘That was the longest two minutes of my life. I’ve been hugging people I don’t know left, right and centre – I can’t believe it,’’ he said.
It was Tawa’s second title, after winning the Jubilee Cup in 2013.
Fermanis said a change in attitude had led to their remarkable improvement in form.
‘‘We were down and out after the first few rounds of Jubilee Cup, so we went out and played like we had nothing to lose.
‘‘In finals it’s all about who turns up on the day, and that’s where we’ve stepped up in the last few weeks.’’
Veteran wing Etuale Togia produced a match-winning performance in possibly his last outing for the club, scoring a double and playing a crucial role in their other two tries.
Fermanis had identified a fast start as crucial to their chances, and he got exactly that as Tawa scored first through dynamic centre Pepesana Patafilo.
It was the first of four wonderfully constructed tries, as Tawa’s youth and enthusiasm to attack from everywhere came to the fore.
Fermanis acknowledged their younger players had played a huge role this season.
‘‘We’ve had colts and younger players stepping up all season. We had to keep reminding them how lucky they were to be in a final, they’re a relaxed group of guys.’’
MSP silenced the Tawa contingent in the crowd when Peni crossed for his second from another 5-metre scrum to narrow the gap to 24-20.
When Tawa replacement Pati Gaualofa was sin-binned with four minutes left, it looked like MSP’s experience could get them home.
But Tawa held firm over the dying stages to secure their second Jubilee Cup title.
Elijah Va’a-Brooking gives a rousing haka after Tawa’s dramatic win.