Upper Hutt fullback Jason Woodward brought the house down at Maidstone Park with the last act of the game, kicking the match winning conversion to give his side an Old Timers' Day 25-23 victory over Wainuiomata in Saturday's round two Swindale Shield feature match.
A deathly silence descended inside the packed clubrooms as Woodward, who had kicked terribly all day and missed four from five of his previous kicks, lined up the winning conversion from about 15 metres inside the right hand touchline. The place erupted when the flags went up and Upper Hutt had grabbed their second bonus point win to start the 2012 Swindale Shield.
It was heartbreak for Wainuiomata, who had at least deserved to escape with a draw after leading throughout the match and dominating up front against a lacklustre Upper Hutt who were rarely in the match in the first half. With Piri Weepu on board at first five-eighth, and their pack in control in the set-pieces, Wainuiomata scored two unanswered tries to lead 17-3 at halftime. But as so often happens in these big matches, Upper Hutt came storming back in the second half to close the deficit and then score on fulltime through right wing Martin Te Whetu.
Upper Hutt's last-gasp win over Wainuiomata was one of several thrillers around the Wellington club rugby competitions, including two draws and a one-point scoreline in Senior 1 and an upset 24-22 win to the Wainuiomata women's side over defending champions Eketahuna in the Women's Fleurs Trophy opening round.
At Kilbirnie Park, Northern United opened their Swindale Shield account edging Poneke 22-16 after trailing by one and then scoring the winning try with about five minutes remaining. The try was converted from the sideline, leaving Norths' supporters with several tense minutes as Poneke hammered away deep inside their own territory before fulltime was blown.
At the Petone Recreation Ground, the Wests Roosters blew open a tight game to score three tries in five minutes and sail to a 29-17 second half lead over Petone. They held on and won their first match of the season 34-22, also consigning the Villagers to their second straight loss.
Ories denied Tawa a bonus point for coming within seven points at the end, scoring their third try on fulltime to tighthead prop Whetu Henry and taking a 22-10 win at the Polo Ground.
Hutt Old Boys Marist also grabbed their second win to start the season, holding off Old Boys University 24-13 at Nairnville Park. The Eagles did all their scoring in the first half, scoring three tries and taking a 24-8 lead at the break. OBU came back in the second spell but could only manage their second try of the match towards the end.
At the other end of the scale, Premier newcomers Rimutaka went down 13 tries to nil to Marist St. Pat's at Evans Bay Park, the home team recording a comfortable 82-3 victory.
In the Senior 1 Harper Lock Shield, the two draws saw Ories and Tawa finish all square on 30-30 and Johnsonville and Petone finish locked up at 29-29. In the same grade, Wainuiomata pipped Avalon 20-19, OBU edged HOBM 23-17, Ories beat Tawa 30-20. MSP accounted for Paremata-Plimmerton 51-13 and Poneke beat Norths 25-15.
Poneke made it two from three in the top three grades over Norths opposition, beating them 18-12 in their Senior 2 National Mutual Cup encounter.
In the same grade, Stokes Valley opened their winner's account, beating MSP 31-21, Wellington grabbed their second consecutive win beating Ories 37-21, OBU beat HOBM 23-17 - the same score as their Senior 1 win, Upper Hutt smoked Avalon 55-3 and Wests held out Petone 28-25.
In the Premier Women's Fleurs Trophy, Wainuiomata's 24-22 win over Eketahuna was a big result of the day. The other two games proved more one-sided, with Norths beating Stokes Valley 40-3 and OBU beating Ories 49-7.
What a way to start the season at Maidstone Park.
With time up on the clock, Upper Hutt's Martin Te Whetu steamed in to score the winning try that was converted by fullback Jason Woodward to complete an unlikely comeback - given that late in the first half Upper Hutt were down 17-3, were being beaten up in the forwards and were down a man with lock James Wall in the sin-bin.
Having Weepu in the side as a late starter at first five-eighth was a bonus for Wainuiomata, but he was aided by his forwards who dominated an error-ridden Upper Hutt early. Veteran tighthead prop Justin Va'a was massive all match, and locks Shahn Eru and James Saolele and loosies Glen Angus and Sape Misa were all key figures for the green and blacks.
Wainuiomata's two converted tries came in the 25th and 35th minutes, and were both well constructed. Prop David Va'a crashed over following a turnover from a scrum and a series of forward drives at the line, and halfback Frae Wilson crossed from an attacking lineout and another close quarter raid by the forwards. Weepu converted both tries.
Regaining possession and territory from the re-start of the second try, fullback Woodward had a chance to close the gap for Upper Hutt with a penalty on halftime, but missed.
Upper Hutt came out after the interval much more urgent and were rewarded 10 minutes in with a try to flanker Brook Cowan after a lineout drive and several thrusts at the line, hooker Anaru Rangi prominent. Woodward's conversion missed and it was 17-8 to Wainuiomata.
Two minutes later Upper Hutt struck again, lock Wall surging forward from the re-start and setting up a ruck in midfield. Sensing an opportunity, Upper Hutt spread it to that man Woodward who made a sizzling run up the grandstand touchline, passed inside to his support player Kayne Hammington and Hammington burst away to score. Woodward's conversion from a handy angle missed and it was now 17-13 to Wainuiomata.
Wainuiomata regrouped and won a penalty, but this time it was Weepu who missed.
The visitors' continued to snarl up front, this time winning a tighthead scrum and a subsequent penalty. This time Weepu found his range and Wainuiomata inched ahead 20-13, now well inside the last quarter of play.
Now it was Upper Hutt's turn to regain the ascendancy pouring through on to attack inside the 22. Two players made a play at the line but the defence held on. From the next ruck Hammington made a dart and he crashed over for his second and Upper Hutt's third try. Woodward again missed with his conversion and Wainuiomata remained in front 20-18.
Both teams dug deep, Wainuiomata winning another penalty and Weepu obliging from 25 metres to extend the lead to 23-18 and surely Upper Hutt couldn't produce a fairytale on their Old Timers' Day?
One final assault on Wainuiomata's line was seemingly kept out by the visitors' desperate defence. But they won a penalty, Hammington tapped and this time they spun the ball across their goal posts where wing Te Whetu was waiting out wide to run in to tie the scores up. Woodward then kicked the conversion and the place erupted.
In beating Wainuiomata, Upper Hutt also retained the Peter Jones/Dave Ritchie Cup. This was one of several interclub trophies on the line on Saturday.
At the Petone Rec, the Wests Roosters out scored the home team in the second half 24-8, giving them possession of the Gareth Head Memorial Trophy. New halfback Nalu Tuigamala scored two of his side's five tries as Wests came back to score an emphatic win.
The Cyril Collett Memorial Shield stayed with Norths, but only after a tremendous battle with the home side Poneke who had their noses in front late in the match when fullback Ben Huntley edged them ahead 16-15. But Norths, hungry to win after being upset by Upper Hutt in the opening round, won with five minutes left. Hurricanes players Reg Goodes (for Poneke) and Alapati Leiua (Norths, two tries) were try scorers in this match.
HOBM clung to their halftime 24-8 lead to retain the Wood Cup over OBU, after flanker Dan McCool scored from an intercept and outside backs Tupeni Kamakorewa and Parataiso Silafai-Leaanaa crossed in the first half.
OBU had scored their first try midway through the first half to left wing Luke Fiso, and had to wait until near the end of the contest to score again when last year's Wellington College First XV hooker and captain Josh Nicho found the whitewash.
It was close throughout between Ories and Tawa at the Polo Ground, where Ories were putting the Bill Brien Challenge Cup on the line for the first time this season.
Both teams had players sent to the sinbin early on, which affected the flow. Ories scored first through centre Paulo Aukuso after a break by Hurricane Julian Savea, converted by Ambrose Curtis. A kick and chase into the in-goal forced a 5-metre scrum for Tawa and they hit back with a try through No. 8 Pati Gaualofa. This was unconverted and Ories held a 7-5 lead at halftime.
Ories extended the lead to 15-7 through a Curtis penalty and a try to flanker Ekuale Taua'a. Tawa first five-eighth Terrence Sherlock closed the gap to 15-10, but Ories took their bonus point away at the end when prop Whetu Henry scored Ories' third try.
Rimutaka's chances of competition points dissipated early at Evans Bay Park when home side MSP pulled clear from an early 3-3 score to lay on five tries and take a 34-3 lead by halftime. The scoring continued in the second 40 minutes, with 13 tries in all being scored by 10 different try scorers. Left wing Ryan Setefano scored the first hat-trick of the 2012 Premier season and new fullback Andrew Wells scored a brace.