Bell Block Marist Dragons pulled off one of the most unthinkable of comebacks, defeating their rivals Whanganui Boxon 42-34 to claim the rugby league Taranaki Premiership trophy and Lile Shield at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth on Saturday.
The home side were down 34-12 early in the second spell, but showed incredible heart and determination to shock visitors Whanganui to be named the 2018 Taranaki league premier champions.
The Dragons stormed from behind to score 30 unanswered points in the second half to down a tired Boxon outfit.
Marist Dragons delivered the first blow of the match with hooker Jesse Pirini scooting over to score from close range after a powerful surge from second rower and co-captain Isaac Hekenui.
Boxon rolled up their sleeves and scored a try of their through Bernard Matthews who put in a clever grubber and pounced on the loose ball to level the scores at 6-6.
The visitors then took control of the match and led the Dragons 20-6 with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
Young Dragons interchange forward Jonathan Fidow lifted his team with a rampaging run up field late in the first half before scoring a crucial try to keep his side in the hunt.
Boxon led at the break 22-12.
Whanganui continued to pile on the hurt with two more tries through Richie Graham and Matt Everleigh-Brown.
The match appeared to be over for the home side with some of their fans walking out with 25 minutes remaining in the match.
Dragons' enforcer Tiemi Ransfield changed the momentum of the match, running an excellent line off his half and co-captain Dylan Hall to lift the spirits of his side and begin the remarkable comeback.
Interchange Marist forward Sione Ahokava provided some superb go forward for the Dragons with his barnstorming runs to put the home side on the front foot.
Marist went up a gear and punished the visitors as Whanganui’s discipline began to slip, the Dragons levelled the match at 34-34 with three more tries of their own with only minutes remaining on the clock.
Dragons winger Chance Te Uira missed a chance to give his side the lead, missing an important conversion from easy range.
Boxon again gave away another penalty in the final five minutes with Dragons’ No.6 Hall stepping up to slot a pressure kick to give the Marist Dragons a 36-34 lead.
Te Uira made up for his botched conversion, pouncing on a loose ball to score the match winning try after an excellent chip kick from Dragons half Hall.
The Marist Dragons half Hall had the last say with a successful conversion from the sideline.
Once the final siren sounded the Dragons' support staff and players ran onto the field and celebrated with their team, as they claimed their fourth consecutive championship.